Transformer States: A Series on Digital Government and Human Rights

The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice’s “Transformer States” series explores the digital transformation of the State and its impacts on the lives and rights of individuals, through in-depth interviews with practitioners and academics working on digital government and through blog posts by practitioners and scholars.

As governments around the world implement “digital transformation” strategies, this series of interviews and blog posts draws attention to varied and indicative cases of the problems which can arise when governments’ digitalization efforts follow certain logics and move in certain directions. This series, launched in the fall of 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, seeks to question the human rights implications of this trend.

The series is guided by a set of central questions. What are the promises of digital transformation? What political ideals and motives are propelling these developments and who is involved in driving and producing these digital transformations? What human rights concerns have already emerged and are to be expected? And, what can and should be the response of the human rights movement, but also of governments, legislators, courts, and wider civil society, to ensure that digital government lives up to its promises and protects and fulfills the human rights of all?

In each virtual conversation, Project Director Christiaan van Veen and Research Scholar Victoria Adelmant interview one practitioner or academic undertaking interesting research in countries across the globe, to explore a concrete case study of digital transformation. Examining cases as varied as the exclusion arising from the introduction of digital ID in Kenya that acts as “gateways” to accessing social and other human rights, to “digital-by-default” welfare benefits in the United Kingdom, to the influence and role of the private sector in India’s introduction of digital ID, and Social Credit in China, the conversations create links between disparate digitalization efforts to draw attention to the human rights risks.

A curated series of blog posts accompanies these interviews, written by practitioners and scholars alike. These blogs explore varied case studies of digital government to complement the in-depth conversations, covering issues such as digital ID in West Africa, the monitoring of disability benefit recipients’ social media accounts in the United States, and Bolsa Família in Brazil.

The aim of this series is not only to allow participants to become better acquainted with topics at the intersection of digital government and human rights, but also to create a repository of relevant knowledge about digital government and human rights and an informal network of those working on these issues. We hope therefore that those interested will engage with the whole series, through participating in the conversations and reading the blogs, but also that this webpage can serve as a hub for information and exchange.

Please see below the recorded conversations, event summaries with additional reading materials, and blog series. Please contact Victoria Adelmant if you have any questions about this series, if you are interested in publishing a blog on these issues on our webpage or if you would like to propose other ways to get involved!

Recordings of Conversations

Event Summaries
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