Geeks for Justice

Ideas and Issues

May 18, 2021

New Orleans

We’re drowning in data, so much that I often think we have no idea what is really what. I often think of something I read some years ago about information, saying that we collected more than we could ever analyze or understand. That’s humbling for sure. Now in the modern world, where technology has become the new altar for progress and technocrats and their cohort the new priests and prophets, it is easy to wonder how to keep from being overwhelmed, and, as importantly, how to marshal some of this for social change and justice.

Of course, we do our part, and strive to do more in the joint partnership between ACORN, Labor Neighbor, and the Ohio Voter Project, where we are analyzing and processing more than 130 million individual voter files from 25 states to thwart any efforts at suppression and illegal denial of access to the ballot. Our volunteer army of interns from the University of Ottawa, Denver University, and Tulane University are on one project after another for us. Still, I’m encouraged by the work of some tech freedom fighters that seem to emerge almost at random.

For example, I read in The Economist of a home-bound 23-year-old French data scientist who began plotting and tweeting comparative counts of Covid-19 cases between France and Italy. From that beginning project, he developed a site called ViteMaDose or QuickMyJab that scans various French health sites to locate available vaccination shots. Given the suffocating French bureaucracy where a multi-question form has to be filled out in order to go outdoors during many days of the pandemic, this young man’s technical shot was little short of revolutionary.

And, then there’s Foxglove in the United Kingdom. The name Foxglove was shrewdly chosen by the tech and legal women warriors who founded the organization. Foxglove is a European grown plant that can be both beautiful and poisonous. Yes, you have it, much like technology. A piece in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, touted the organization’s founders, and the coups they have counted on the government by directly attacking discriminatory algorithms and other tech aberrations. They undid an attempt to assign grades in the pandemic that would have unsettled many students’ chances of going to universities. They turned over a visa program that they were able to prove was discriminatory. As tech mavens and lawyers, they are able to link the two together in many of these campaigns. They are also going after big tech like Facebook and Google, so there’s hope for all of us from Foxglove.

Tech can’t just be a place where people go to get rich. Tech tools also have to be fashioned for justice. There are many pointing the way. We all need to push them along.

Check out the new release “Elevator Boots” by Counting Crows, courtesy of KABF.