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Digital Health and Rights - Future of Human Rights in the Digital Age

Digital Health and Rights

Future of Human Rights in the Digital Age

Start date:

1 June 2023

Principal Investigator:

Sara L.M. Davis

Project Partners: 

Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+)

Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV & AIDS (KELIN)


Universidad de los Andes

Restless Development

Privacy International

Project Funder:


Human Rights, Participatory Action Research, Civil Society, Digital Health, Youth Engagement

While they offer the opportunity to speed progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, digital technologies and artificial intelligence are designed, accessed and used in a context shaped by profound inequalities, both among and within countries. UN leaders have affirmed that “human rights should be at the heart of tech governance”, and high-level policy discussions over the next few years could represent a turning point. Young people and civil society in low- and middle-income countries have had little voice in digital governance, but they must have a role in shaping those discussions, or risk missing the opportunity to establish rights-based digital governance for the future.

Using a transnational participatory action research approach that centres the voice and leadership of young adults, the Digital Health and Rights Project consortium is conducting qualitative research in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam. The project uses HIV as a site from which to explore challenges with digital access by young adults, the threats online faced by marginalised and criminalised groups, and the transformative potential of engaging transnational community-led networks in the digital age.

The project will provide leadership and educational opportunities to participants, and will develop digital literacy and empowerment training and an open-access digital literacy hub. A global Digital Rights Community of Practice will provide expert advice on case studies. We seek to create new democratic and participatory models for digital governance research.

The DHRP Consortium has previously conducted multi-country studies in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam, using the findings to inform policy recommendations to UN agencies; and to development agencies such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and GIZ, the main German development agency. The consortium also collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, to support development of her 2023 report to the UN Human Rights Council on digital innovation, new technologies and the right to health.

Consortium core members - Nairobi 2022
Consortium core members - Nairobi 2022

Background Publications and reports:

· Sara L. M. Davis et al., 2023, “Digital health and human rights of young adults in Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam: A qualitative participatory action research studyBMJ Global Health

· UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health - Thematic Report on Digital Innovation, Technologies and the Right to Health

· Policy Brief – Towards Digital Justice

· Inception Paper - Digital health and rights in Bangladesh and Colombia

· Final Project Report – Digital Health and Human Rights of Young Adults in Ghana, Kenya, and Vietnam

· Initial Analysis – Digital Health Rights

· Inception Paper - Digital Health and Rights in Ghana, Vietnam, and Kenya

· Sara L. M. Davis and Carmel Williams, eds., 2020, “Big data, technology, artificial intelligence and the right to health,” Health and Human Rights Journal special section

· Sara L. M. Davis et al., 2020, “A democracy deficit in digital health? Challenges and opportunities,” Health and Human Rights Journal