That better world we promised our children? Here’s a good start.

Blog by Rupert Goodwins (approx. 3 min read)

(NEWSFLASH! I’m delighted to say that Civic Digits has been shortlisted for two of the British Data Awards – more details here. Now back to our scheduled bloggery)

If you don’t think you need them, human rights can seem remote, officious concepts, sanctimonious do-gooding created by bureaucrats who want to tamper with the freedoms of citizens to look after themselves..

At least, that’s the narrative you’ll hear from politicians – of all hues – who dislike not being able to do exactly what they like to people they don’t. 

Nothing is further from the truth. Human rights are born in fire, smelted from the sufferings of millions in the crucibles of war and genocide. They have been bought with blood, and built by those who know all too well what chaos can be unchained without them. 

What’s this got to do with Civic Digits? The UN just published its UNCRC General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment https://5rightsfoundation.com/our-work/childrens-rights/uncrc-general-comment.html which is about recognising and protecting the rights of those in our lives who have the least agency and need the most support.  As you probably know, I and everyone else in the company spend a lot of our time thinking about, designing for and learning everything we can about children’s experience of the digital. We’re also the sort of proudly sanctimonious do-gooders who fervently believe that a society worth living in is built on equality, fairness and compassion, especially towards the disadvantaged and vulnerable, and empowering the young to be safe and successful online is a huge part of that today. 

I won’t go into what’s in the UNCRC report in detail. It takes all the things that concern everyone these days – privacy, safety, access, respect – and asks what these mean for children. It answers that question by setting out how everyone involved in the digital world can and should think about young people in the digital world. That means states, public and commercial organisations, and individuals. 

There’s no doubt that the primary driver for innovation online is commercial, with the ability of tech companies to generate huge amounts of cash producing some wonderful global resources. It also leads to some awful outcomes. Finding the balance here is something we’re all going to have to evolve: there are no instant answers. But there is one continuous mistake that drives us all backward – a lack of diversity. Companies have ‘the user’ or ‘the customer’, governments ‘the voter’ or ‘the sponsor’. The further you are from how those terms are understood, the less influence you’ll have in creating a good outcome. 

And of all the many under-represented groups in the engine rooms of power, children are among the least visible, least thought about, least influential. The UNCRC report is very strong on this, and it needs to be. 

You’re not a government minister. You don’t run Google*. But you can influence the people you work with, you can have a voice in all sorts of ways. Check out the UNCRC report – or any of the very accessible supporting documents and videos at that link. Start helping put young people at the heart of how we all create, run and use our digital world. Rights matter, rights for children matter hugely, and it’s up to everyone to make them real. 

*If you are a government minister or do run Google, drop us a line. We’ve got some excellent sponsorship opportunities. 

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