In the fall of 2012, I took a statistics course with Professor Ali Arab of the Georgetown University Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Dr. Arab worked with the Science and Human Rights Coalition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. After learning about his work with the coalition, I became intrigued by interdisciplinary work in science and human rights. After discussing my interest in the area with Dr. Arab, he agreed to mentor me as I conducted research on the subject. I began my research by reviewing current methods of monitoring human rights abuses utilizing satellite imagery and learned that human rights analysts encounter difficulties due to image clarity and obscured details. Wondering if computational processes could aid the human rights analysts’ efforts, I investigated image analysis algorithms and programs. Through my research I discovered that change-detection and image-fusion algorithms combined with analytics programs can augment the effectiveness of human rights abuse monitoring. I presented my results at several conferences and published them in Righting Wrongs, a peer-reviewed human rights journal. I continued my research afterwards by investigating the legal implications of using satellite images as evidence of human rights abuses in court.

After researching the subject for a few years, I decided to move from theory to practice. I saw great potential in the ability of students to contribute to human rights through the use of technology. Based on positive and intriguing conversations I had with several students, I felt that they could do significant work in this area by collaborating with professors, corporations, and NGOs. This prompted me to start  SATCOHR. We have been in discussions with several organizations and individuals that have substantial experience in technology and human rights, and we have already began working on some projects. To accommodate the varied skill sets of different students and to cover the various areas involved with applying technology to humanitarian purposes, we organized SATCOHR into several teams. These include technology, justice, ethics, and advocacy. While each deals with technology, the technology team primarily concerns students with backgrounds in computer science. We were honored to be invited to Clinton Global Initiative University 2016 at UC Berkeley to present SATCOHR, develop our ideas, learn about how to best move forward, and meet with students and organization representatives that we could collaborate with. In the near future we hope to engage more students, connect with more organizations and individuals, and finalize projects in each of our key areas. Please see below for summary information about SATCOHR:

SATCOHR_Hand MISSION: Our mission is to empower students to advance human rights through geospatial technology and key engagements with NGOs, corporations, and academic institutions.
SATCOHR_Hand LOCATIONS: Currently, SATCOHR is based at Georgetown University and Carnegie Mellon University.
SATCOHR_Hand TECHNOLOGY: Our Technology Team applies geospatial technology and coding to advance human rights abuse monitoring and documentation.
SATCOHR_Hand JUSTICE: Our Justice Team investigates evidentiary issues associated with geospatial technology in courts. It seeks to make advances towards the creation of evidentiary and admissibility standards in this context.
SATCOHR_Hand ETHICS: Our Ethics Team attempts to address ethical considerations associated with applying geospatial technology towards human rights. Questions include: Who does this technology help most? Who does it leave out?
SATCOHR_Hand ADVOCACY: Our Advocacy Team raises awareness about innovative applications of geospatial technology to human rights and the need for more innovation.

Please see below for our current leadership team:

SATCOHR’s Leadership:

SATCOHR_Hand Alex Luta: Founder and Executive Director
SATCOHR_Hand Sudev Bohra: Chief Technology Officer
SATCOHR_Hand Joe Lanzilla: Director of Justice
SATCOHR_Hand Amin Gharad: Director of Ethics
SATCOHR_Hand Asahi Niño: Director of Advocacy
SATCOHR_Hand Justin Hegyi: Director of Technology

Alex Luta would like to thank Professor Ali Arab, the Georgetown University Research Opportunities Program, and the Lisa J. Raines Fellowship for the generous support of his research. SATCOHR would like to thank the Provost’s Office and the Mortara Center of Georgetown University for the generous support needed to attend Clinton Global Initiative University 2016 at UC Berkeley.

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Satellite photo courtesy of NASA

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