Posts Tagged data

UNESCO/UBC Vancouver Memory of the World Declaration

At last month’s conference, “Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation”, a declaration was adopted addressing the challenge of digital amnesia.  The four page document, made available on UNESCO’s website last week, is an extension of a principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  That is, each individual should be guaranteed access to information, including in digital format, and that national policies should be established to promote the right to information, open government and open data.

Also highlighted during the conference and its consequent declaration was the growing importance of industry in digitization and digital preservation among trusted digital repositories.  The conference declaration adopted a call on industry to ensure long-term accessibility to trustworthy information contained in legacy formats.  It further encouraged professional associations work with industry for the development of requirements of systems that embed preservation concern and assist in the development of a cohesive and practical vision of the way forward in addressing the management and preservation of trustworthy recorded information in all its forms in the digital environment.

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ICA Human Rights Archives Directory

For some years now, the ICA Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) has been trying to establish a directory of human rights archives from around the globe.  This summer, I began volunteering with the ICA HRWG as project co-director on their directory project.  In case you are not aware, the directory project aims to build on-line directory of (1) archives that identify themselves as human rights archives and (2) archives that are part of a human rights organization and are open to the public.

In collaboration with the other project director, the indispensable Tessa Fallon, Web Collection Curator at Columbia University Libraries, and under the guidance of ICA HRWG chair and experienced American archivist, Trudy Huskamp Peterson, we have compiled data on such organizations and institutions based on the ISDIAH standard.  This past week, Tessa has built a beta version of the online platform from which our compiled data can be shared and disseminated.  Yesterday, on October 25, Trudy presented the site to members of the working group and the ICA during the annual CITRA 2011 conference in Toledo, Spain.

We invite you to view this site and welcome any suggestions or comments you may want to share with the project staff through the site.  If you know of an organization/archives that should be included in the directory or if you feel that your organization’s archives belongs in this group, please do not hesitate to contact us.  You may also contact me through this blog regarding the project or the project’s new web platform.

Go to ICA HRWG directory project site

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EuropeanaTech Conference – Registration Open

EuropeanaTech is the final conference of the EU project EuropeanaConnect and is organised in collaboration with the Europeana Foundation.  It promises to explore technical challenges of making digital cultural and scientific information attractive and easily accessible for the public.  An important goal of this conference is to build the community of technical and scientific experts in the field.  At the core of the conference are interaction, demonstration and the exchange of experiences.

It takes place October 4-5, 2011 in Austrian National Library in Vienna.  Entry to the conference is free and open to all.  Places are limited and registration is requested.  The main strands of the conference will be:

– Open Source
– Open Data
– Aggregation and (Meta-) Data Quality
– Explore and Discover
– Distributed Community Empowerment

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Advancing Children’s Rights – A Guide for African Civil Society

This past month, Plan and Save the Children Sweden have collaborated to produce a second edition of this guide on how civil society organisations can best engage with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Children (ACRWC).  This guide has been developed in collaboration with African civil society organisations, academics and members of the Committee.  .

Africa is the only continent with a region-specific child rights instrument.  The ACRWC, adopted in 1990 by the Organisation of African Unity (disbanded 2002), is an important tool for African child rights activists as it complements the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Though much progress has been made to promote the ACRWC, still more needs to be done to make this important human rights treaty accessible for civil society and state institutions in Africa.

This guide aims to be a resource for civil society organisations who are interested in finding out more about the ACRWC and the Committee.  The publication highlights methods on data collection, documenting information, and the use of official parliamentary/legislative records.  It contains practical advice and information on how civil society can engage with the Committee to advance children’s rights in Africa.  This edition reflects important developments relating to the Committee’s work, civil society organisations’ engagement with the Committee and the functioning of the CSO Forum on the ACRWC (note the special mention of the CSO Forum database).

The publication of the French version of the Guide is scheduled for May 2011. An Arabic version is also foreseen.

All comments you may have to help improve this edition are most welcome. Please send any input to Åsa Rapp Baro, Regional Advisor, Save the Children Sweden West Africa ( and Stefanie Conrad, Deputy Regional Director Programs, Plan West Africa (

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Crunching Numbers for Human Rights: The Promise and Perils of Data and Statistics

Last fall, Benetech was featured here for its role in the  convictions of two former Guatemalan police charged with human rights violations in the 1980s.  Patrick Ball, VP of the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) human rights monitoring, gave a talk to the Open Society Foundations last month as part of the foundation’s Information Program.

Human rights monitoring consists primarily of receiving information from witnesses and conducting investigations. The resulting information is often stored in databases. However, the statistics generated from databases collected in this way may tell us more about the functioning of the organization doing the monitoring than about the violence being monitored.

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Weekly Round-Up: Net Neutrality, the Digital Divide & Your Right to Internet Access

Last December Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, wrote a piece in the Scientific American advocating to make access to the Internet and Web content a human and legal right.   With the growth of the Web, Berners-Lee feels that the egalitarian principles of democracy and universality, under which he envisioned the Web, are under threat by the very entities whom have successfully propelled the Internet’s use.  He attempts to make a compelling argument to reconstitute the meaning of these principles by providing real world examples of how the Web, as initially envisioned, has taken some directions which do not align with the values and principles to which he refers.  He lays out his argument by exploring the values inherent, and violated, in the debates around free speech, freedom from government/third-party monitoring, freedom from information filtering/censoring, and freedom from ISP interference and disconnection without due process.  All of which are valid points, despite the faulty utilitarian logic he uses.  Also against this backdrop of growing threats to our internet freedom, Berners-Lee urges for transparency in standards to enable more intra-website information sharing.   (He offers the idea of “linked data” as one solution).

This piece captures the increasingly common issues of net neutrality and the digital divide, which are being bandied about a lot these days.  In Canada last week, the government’s attempt to reverse an internet usage cap and billing decision by the Canadian Radio & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was largely in response to citizens’ reactions.  Generally, the decision was not made for consumers’ best interests and would create an anti-competitive ICT market that could potentially widen the gap between those with and those without internet access.  Meanwhile, in the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been busy tackling problems with US telecoms.  Berners-Lee mentions a federal court ruling last year which denied the FCC from stopping major telecoms from interfering with customers’ connections to certain sites by blocking or slowing traffic to competing sites.  The FCC has been hard at work to overturn this by drafting new policy.  And this week, the FCC, in a public-private partnership, announced its plans to resolve the issue of rural wireless broadband access.  The involvement of the telecoms funding the proposed project is predicted to have billing implications on their customers.  Yet, amidst the flurry of business activity, Berners-Lee should be pleased to hear that this week the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has appointed Columbia University law professor, Tim Wu, as a new senior advisor on the agency’s Office of Policy Planning.  Wu founded the principle of “net neutrality” and it is expected that his work will cover policy in consumer protection, competition, law and communications technology.

Another potential boon for efforts in bridging the divide, (a charity founded by Kostas Grommatis) is embarking on a rather ambitious but noble initiative to bridge the information disparity gap by providing global access to information by the use of satellites.  Like Berners-Lee, Grammatis believes that internet access should be a human right.  Like Bill Gates views on creative capitalism, Grammatis’ idea is premised along similarly technologically deterministic lines and ignores concurrent systemic social problems. Yet, not to diminish from the sincerity of the idea, this project is unique in that it aims to build a free communication network available anywhere in the world.  This endeavour contrasts One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) programs.  OLPC programs may be unsustainable ventures insomuch as they make the presupposition that governments will follow suit by subsidizing infrastructure development to make internet access available in the very regions these programs target, regions where there are presently no networks available.

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Zimbabwe: Constitutional data easy to manipulate

According to SW Radio Africa news and the Independent newspaper on 3 December 2010, the coordinator of the Constitution Select Committee, Peter Kunjeku, complained that “all the important information that was collected during the constitutional outreach meetings is being kept at the Copac offices in Harare, but is not secured and can easily be accessed and manipulated.”  The records, he said, include signed hard copies of records from outreach meetings, audio and visual records, digital cameras, compact video cameras and laptops that were used by Copac officials around the country.

Kunjeku suggested in a 20 October memorandum that the records be “temporarily stored” at the National Archives of Zimbabwe and some were briefly delivered but the proposal “was turned down” and the records taken back from the Archives.  On 17 December the Financial Gazette reported that Kunjeku’s contract with the Committee has not been renewed.

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