"The paradox of the human rights community is that it is an information-processing industry that has limited access to information technology" says Jim Fruchterman, the winner of the Skoll Award for Social Enterpreneurship in 2004 and 2006 and founder of Benetech – an organization that creates technology used by human rights and literacy program workers.
Benetech's own Web site goes on to observe that "human rights groups throughout the world gather massive amounts of violation data. Much of it never reaches its full potential or intended audience."
Isn't the same paradox common to other areas of the development sector, including policy making and private sector development?
After having successfully launched Martus, a tool to improve the documentation and reporting of human right abuses, Fruchterman is planning to take on the conservation sector through Miradi, an IT solution to help implement open standards for conservation.
Too much information, too little processing capacity. The result is information loss, and its equally crippling counterpart, information overload. Crowdsourcing is a potential solution. Effective information design is another.
"Visualising information for Advocacy" is a free booklet full of interesting examples of how powerful visuals and charts can support campaigning efforts. Some of them are worth an inclusion in the Economist' list of history's top graphics. My personal favourite is the "atlernative map of Tashkent" designed by Human Rights Watch to remind delegates of EBRD's 2003 annual meeting of human right abuses in the host country.