single Category Archives culture

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed deep structural problems that go far beyond conventional ideas of public health, not least the impacts of pervasive inequality and racism. Civil society is mobilising to adapt and respond. Our ability to drive change will depend in part on our ability to communicate vital information in effective ways, harnessing the power of data and digital technology. The emergency has shown that the right information delivered in the right way can prompt people to change their individual behaviours and collectively save lives all over the world.

The iconic "Flatten the Curve" graph, which encouraged people everywhere to help contain the spread of COVID-19, is a case in point. It shows how measures such as hand-washing and social distancing can squash the expected peak of the pandemic, and keep infection numbers low enough for healthcare systems to manage. This simple public health chart, which originated in specialist journals and reports, was widely shared by traditional newspapers and magazines, then refined to clarify the message even further, translated into many languages, and creatively reworked into animations, cartoons and even cat videos.

A colleague in the data and human rights world asked friends and followers what international leaders need to hear right now about the state of human rights around the globe.

I told him that if I could draw on my own experience to ask an international body to do one thing, it would be to confront and address the global delinquency in data governance.

It's worth re-reading the Emma Lazarus poem "The New Colossus" that was set at the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1903 (and which was moved indoors since 1986). Here are a few things I noticed:

  • Lazarus names Lady Liberty "Mother of Exiles." It makes one comparison unavoidable.
  • She rejects the "storied pomp" of "ancient" Europe and antiquity for the humbleness of the New World. #NeverPomp
  • "From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome." Nice one.
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