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REINING IN HUMANITARIAN TECHNOLOGY

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reports and guidelines on data ethics for later reading in some mythical free time-slot. Our programmes seem stuck in contract negotiation, so I tell myself there is time and I will get to it. Next month will be better. It is mid-February. The BBC now spends half of every podcast on COVID-19. My colleagues and I exchange worried updates in the corridors. We begin to realise how serious this will be. I quietly up our home preparedness game. Diapers, bottled water, and backup bags of coffee huddle next to the Christmas decorations and abandoned strollers in our storage space. I lurk in responsible data chats and email threads as irate colleagues exchange news of invasive and ineffective contact-tracing apps. Tabs multiply in my browser. I have been in this field for more than a decade, I know the drill. The ideas will be exciting, the promises grandiose. The risks will be enormous, the payoff dubious. Many of these ideas will get investment. Some may even get built. Most will not be impactful enough to cause a problem. All will be a waste of time and money. A few will cause harm, and in all probability, no one will ever know. It is late February. We discuss how to take our in-person team remote. A friend is pretty sure they have had COVID-19 and recovered. We start cancelling international travel and grapple with what this means for our work plans and budgets. The office empties out. I realise slowly how much of this response will reach for data as the solution, and how underprepared my employer is for it. There will be a free-for-all, and it will be partly my fault. I apologetically resuscitate old email threads with partners and colleagues, asking for meetings to take forward development of our responsible data policy. Colleagues are happy to help, but overstretched. Governments are asking them to pivot their programmes toward the COVID-19 response. It is early March. COMMENTARIES

Profile for Meatspace Press

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

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