Benetech, Amnesty International, and the Engine Room Announce DatNav

By Benetech, posted on

A groundbreaking guide on navigating digital data for human rights organizations

Palo Alto, California, August 24, 2016—Benetech, a Silicon Valley nonprofit whose mission is to empower communities in need by creating scalable technology solutions, is excited to announce the release of DatNav, a ground-breaking new guide on navigating digital data within the human rights field. Work on this project, in collaboration with Amnesty International, The Engine Room, and many other notable organizations, began in late 2015 and culminated in an innovative and comprehensive community-generated resource.

“Benetech is proud to collaborate with Amnesty International, the Engine Room, and other human rights organizations to launch DatNav and outline possibilities and best practices for using new data streams and technology-enhanced human rights data collection,” said Betsy Beaumon, President of Benetech.

The project research included interviews, community consultations, and surveys to understand whether digital data was being integrated into human rights work. In the vast majority of cases, the research team found that it wasn’t. Why not?

Mainly because human rights defenders appeared to be overwhelmed by the possibilities.

From online videos of rights violations and satellite images of environmental degradation, to eyewitness accounts disseminated on social media, human rights professionals have access to more relevant data today than ever before. When used responsibly, this data can help human rights professionals in the courtroom, when working with governments and journalists, and in documenting historical records.

Acquiring, disseminating, and storing digital data is also becoming increasingly affordable. As costs continue to decrease and new platforms are developed, opportunities for harnessing these data sources for human rights work increase. But integrating data collection and management into the day-to-day work of human rights research and documentation can be challenging, even overwhelming, for individuals and organizations.

Download English DatNav guide (9 MB PDF)

Download Spanish DatNav guide (9 MB PDF)

Download Arabic DatNav guide (16 MB PDF) — NEW! 

Read more about the Arabic version in this blog by the Engine Room.

“As the variety and volume of new data available to human rights actors grows, we must ensure that a capacity rift is not widened within the global social justice community. Amnesty’s collaboration with Benetech, the Engine Room, and others on DatNav is a first step to minimize the impact of material disparities on a unified global fight for human rights and human dignity,” said Scott Edwards, Ph.D., a Senior Adviser with Amnesty International.

That’s where DatNav comes in. The comprehensive guide is designed to help human rights defenders and journalists navigate and integrate digital data into their human rights work. In particular, it aims to:

  • Boost traditional human rights documentation by explaining how to incorporate digital data.
  • Build knowledge and expertise in advance of the next emergency.
  • Explain the opportunities, limits, and risks of digital data.
  • Eliminate the fear of digital data and technology.

DatNav contains valuable guidelines, scenarios and case studies, including how satellite imagery solved a 2015 government massacre in Burundi. This indispensable guide also addresses verification steps, privacy risks, ethical concerns, legally admissible evidence, fraudulent data, and responsible data considerations. With better tools, human rights defenders can be much more efficient and effective.

Benetech would like to thank its partners, Amnesty International, The Engine Room, and all of the contributors and reviewers who provided their time and expertise to produce this guide. We look forward to continued collaboration to build an ever-stronger human rights community and advance this deep and meaningful work.