Blog Post

Tech we're not talking about in our sector

Our sector has been having a lot of conversations and doing research on many broad and specific areas of digital transformation over the past 2 years. One of the things I've been thinking about are some specific technologies that don't typically come up in sector conversations about digital transformation, but I think we need to start thinking about and planning for.

With that in mind I had a really rich conversation with a few sector folks yesterday. I'd like to start a broader conversation about some of these areas. Below is a very preliminary list that includes resources added in our discussion. I know I'm missing some. Let me know about other technology areas, nuances we should be discussing, or even how we should begin having this discussion in our sector and we'll dive in together. For example, in our discussion yesterday we looked at both sides of technology use, the upside and downside.

For example, geofencing, which allows you to track when someone has come to your organization and target them with ads on social media can remind people about your services and help you offer. On the other side, some folks consider hyper-targetted ads on social media creepy and invasive. If you're using geofencing, how can you ensure your clients' privacy preferences are factored in? Complex issues.

Ethics in technology use

We had a rich conversation about ethics in technology use and how that isn't enough of a priority conversation. It needs to catch up to our sector focus and values of diversity, inclusion, and anti-oppression. Even in the simplest forms, our constant surveying of clients and Newcomers, how often do we do ethics or peer reviews of those surveys? Do we need to ask all of those questions on intake forms, or can we get some of those answers during the service delivery process? Is that our funders require us to track necessary? And why? How will it be stored, used, shared? While we have the discussion, we can learn from partnerships with academics who have to go through more rigorous processes, and, of course, access online resources, such as:

TCPS 2: CORE-2022 (Course on Research Ethics)
The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2) provides ethics guidance that applies to all research involving human participants – including their data and/or biological materials – conducted under the auspices of an institution eligible for funding by the federal Agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC). The online tutorial CORE-2022 (Course on Research Ethics) is an introduction to the TCPS 2 for the research community. It focuses on the TCPS 2 ethics guidance that is applicable to all research involving human participants, regardless of discipline or methodology.

Ethical Considerations in Research with People in Situations of Forced Migration
The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), Centre for Refugee Studies, and Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS / ACERMF) developed ethical guidelines for research with people in situations of forced migration. The guidelines include a checklist for organizations who are approached by researchers, to help evaluate whether the research will be conducted ethically, and taking into consideration the particular vulnerabilities of people who have been forcibly displaced.

Doing Research with Newcomers - ensuring it is meaningful and inclusive
This guide was developed by the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council (HIPC). It is based on a report conducted in partnership with McMaster University Research Shop. This Good Idea complements and is related to Ethical Considerations in Research with People in Situations of Forced Migration.

For some of these trends, I'm a big fan of the Future Today Institute's yearly Tech Trends report.

Here are the trends we identified so far

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Will AI-based translation be part of your automagic seamless digital service delivery?
As the immigrant and refugee-serving sector moves towards seamless, integrated online service delivery there will inevitably be some levels of automation. Could this type of helpdesk service could be useful as part of a multilingual triage/chatbot process to move newcomers towards more specific information and human-delivered (whether in-person or tech-mediated) services?

AI, Data and Improving Service Delivery (Metropolis conference 2021 recording)
This session focused on how cutting-edge technology has the potential to support and enhance current models of service delivery through automation and the application of solid data analysis. Presenters shared current and practical applications of AI and other technology innovations in the sector.

Bots at the Gate: A Human Rights Analysis of Automated Decision Making in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee System
This report focuses on the impacts of automated decision-making in Canada’s immigration and refugee system from a human rights perspective.

Chinook and Canadian immigration: An efficiency-enhancing tool or cause for concern?
Chinook, an Excel based tool developed in-house by IRCC to allow visa officers to review applications more quickly and the mechanism by which the final decisions are recorded and reasons for decisions are “generated” in this tool. Chinook has a number of modules and allows visa officers to pull information from the GCMS system for many applications at the same time, review the information and make decisions and “generate notes” in using a built-in note generator, in a fraction of the time it previously took to review the same number of applications... IRCC has emphasized that Chinook is not an AI system. However, the concerns with Chinook, and other “processing” tools such as this, is not whether the decision-maker is a computer.

CIMM — Chinook Development and Implementation in Decision-Making – February 15 & 17, 2022
Chinook is a Microsoft Excel-based tool developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for temporary resident application processing to increase efficiency and to improve client service by decreasing the impacts of system and broadband latency, thus improving processing times... Chinook is a tool designed to simplify the visual representation of a client’s information. It does not utilize artificial intelligence (AI), nor advanced analytics for decision-making, and there are no built-in decision-making algorithms.

Exploring the future of responsible AI in government
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer promise for improving how the Government of Canada serves Canadians. As we explore the use of AI in government programs and services, we are ensuring it is governed by clear values, ethics, and laws.

Artificial Intelligence trends in business, government, research, talent, creative fields and society
Artificial intelligence represents the third era of computing, generally defined as the ability for a machine to perform cognitive functions as well as or better than humans. Such functions include perception, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, contextual understanding, making inferences and predictions, and exercising creativity. AI is now used across most industries.

The Ethics of Algorithms: Key Problems and Solutions
Research on the ethics of algorithms has grown substantially over the past decade. Alongside the exponential development and application of machine learning algorithms, new ethical problems and solutions relating to their ubiquitous use in society have been proposed. This article builds on a review of the ethics of algorithms published in 2016 (Mittelstadt et al. 2016). The goals are to contribute to the debate on the identification and analysis of the ethical implications of algorithms, to provide an updated analysis of epistemic and normative concerns, and to offer actionable guidance for the governance of the design, development and deployment of algorithms.

Virtual Reality (VR), Augemented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality

Metaverse, AR/VR & Synthetic Reality
A report showing you the state of play in the metaverse, along with key trends in synthetic media, virtual reality, agumented reality, hologram tech, diminished reality and mixed/ extended reality.

In our conversation, Lightship was brought up. It is a service that "gives you the tools to create innovative, real-world AR experiences that inspire movement and encourage exploration."


Blockchain, DeFi, Cryptos & NFTs
A report showing you key tech trends covering decentralization, blockchain, DeFi, cryptocurrencies, digital payments, smart contracts and banking.

Disruption and digital revolution for whom (UNHCR)?
Considerations on the use of blockchain and distributed ledger technology in displacement contexts.

Case Study - UN Women-WFP Blockchain Pilot Project For Cash Transfers In Refugee Camps
UN Women partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) to pilot test the use of blockchain technology to transfer salaries to women enrolled in Oases cash-for-work programmes in Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps, beginning in June 2019. The pilot reached 467 women and has been expanded to all four camp-based Oases in June 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blockchain - from the UN Innovation Network
Blockchain technologies introduce new systems of trust and exchange on which users can send value directly from one party to another without the need for intermediaries. Blockchain provides opportunities to create new ways of operating, creating transparency and improving accountability. For UN Entities, applications of blockchain technology include cash and remittance transfers, supply chain tracking, record keeping, digital identity, increasing transparency and many others.

Digital Identity

Show Me Your Digital ID, Please
Since 2009, the Government of Canada has had the Directive on Identity Management, but it was only in 2019 that a formal policy definition for a trusted digital identity was introduced: Trusted Digital Identity: an electronic representation of a person, used exclusively by that same person, to receive valued services and to carry out transactions with trust and confidence. - Policy on Government Security.

Facial recognition and biometrics

Technological Testing Grounds - Migration Management Experiments and Reflections from the Ground Up (2020)
This report offers the beginning of a systemic analysis of migration management technologies, foregrounding the experiences of people on the move who are interacting with and thinking about surveillance, biometrics, and automated decision-making during the course of their migration journeys.

Facts about biometrics (IRCC)
Normally, you need to give biometrics if you apply for

  • a visitor visa
  • a work or study permit (excluding US nationals)
  • permanent residence
  • refugee or asylum status
  • an extension of your stay in Canada, known as a visitor record (as of December 3, 2019)
  • a work or study permit extension (as of December 3, 2019)

Virtual Assistants, Chatbots

The essential guide to chatbots for nonprofits and charities
Chatbots for nonprofits and charities free up time for staff to focus on core service delivery and fundraising activities that need the human touch. But what exactly do AI chatbots have to offer?

Technology sustainability/ecology (green procurement)

Negative Impact of Technology on the Environment
Technology can have profound implications for our future. However, there's also the negative impact of technology on the environment that we cannot fail to consider.

Climate, Energy & Space
A report showing you trends influencing the futures of sustainability, energy production and consumption, and green tech. Plus, space commercialization, tourism and exploration trends.

Internet and Home of Things/Wearable tech

Internet-of-Things (IoT) in healthcare and social services - experiences of a sensor system for notifications of deviant behaviours in the home from the users' perspective
Studies on use of IT in residential care are limited; thus, there is a need for investigations to understand both older people's and nursing staff's perspectives on experiences of new technology. 'Smart homes' provide home automation solutions, making life easier for those residing there. The aim was to explore, from the users' perspective, experiences of a sensor system installed in the home. The sensors are meant to provide notifications of deviations in behaviours or routines by the resident, requiring healthcare staff or relatives to do a supervisory visit. The sensor notification system made the users feel secure by being monitored, having control over the situation, and allowing them to become more independent in their daily lives; furthermore, they emphasised the importance of having well-functioning systems. Further development of the technology and use, in co-creation with the users, is needed. Careful preparation in installing/starting the system and repeated information about its aim are needed.

Anticipate, sense, and respond: Connected government and the Internet of Things The Internet of Things in government
Like companies, government agencies are striving to deliver quality services in increasingly complex environments. And the public sector is also looking at ways to apply Internet of Things technology to find new value for citizens, aiming to enhance capabilities, streamline processes, and engage partners.

Connected Home
A report showing you key Iot and Home of Things trends, including consumer appliances, interoperatbility and security.

Social Care: Using IoT to help the most vulnerable
Social care is essential for a fairer society. Given that sustainability is a key consideration for social care systems around the world, the possibilities Internet of Things (IoT) technology offers to support the most vulnerable members of society is garnering increased attention.

Machine translation/interpretation

Machine translation is not quite good enough for health information
At a time when public health information getting into the hands of the many is important, machine translation seems useful, right? Here's the thing. Google translate, and other machine translation services simply don't cut it.

Meta's 'No Language Left Behind' AI Can Now Translate 200 Languages
Meta's No Languages Left Behind project is building an AI model that can translate ever-more languages, even those that are less commonly spoken comes in. First announced in March, the AI model can now translate across 200 languages. Meta will use No Language Left Behind to improve translation on Facebook and Instagram, before eventually deploying it in the metaverse. It's also making it open source for anyone else to use.


Enabling connection and communication across the health system
Interoperability enables information to flow seamlessly between different solutions and devices. When different parts of the health system are interoperable with each other, they can “speak the same language.” Interoperability improves continuity of care, collaboration between health providers and patient access to their health information. By breaking down data silos, it also reduces inefficiencies and redundancies within the health system.

Pathways Towards Data Interoperability for the Sustainable Development Goals in Canada
In order for Canada to achieve its role in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), organizations across sectors need access to higher-quality data to inform decision-making and evaluate progress. This requires investment in collecting data, as well as joining up existing and emerging data sets. In other words, Canada must work toward greater interoperability. Data becomes interoperable when data sets from different sources can be accessed, processed and integrated without losing meaning. And this, in turn, unlocks massive network effects. Interoperability can increase data sharing, data quality and automated data processing, while also reducing fragmentation of data and resource intensity of data collection. This then creates significant new value for Canadian organizations and society.


13 Tech Trends Emerging In The Nonprofit Sector This Year
Geofencing, a digital technology that targets a geographic area up to 300 feet, is becoming more important. For example, we can reach parishioners at church on Sundays by geofencing them. This means we can place an ad on their phone for 30 days because they walked into the church. I have been leveraging geofencing for seven years—it is cost-effective and targeted.

What Is Geofencing and How Does It Affect Your Security and Privacy?
Geofencing is a technology that uses location information from a smart device—like GPS, RFID, or Wi-Fi—to track whether a device is inside or outside a “fence,” a virtual boundary around an area in the real world. The technology is used for a variety of purposes, like security, location tracking, and advertising. Geofenced areas are typically large, ranging from a few hundred square feet to an entire neighborhood, city, or state.

Locational Privacy
Modern communications mean most individuals today walk around with a beacon that transmits their location. Mobile phones register to a nearby tower as the owner moves through space and the phone company can collect that data in real time or retrospectively to physically place the phone with varying degrees of accuracy. Companies can also determine the owner of every handset within range of a particular tower. GPS enabled phones enable far more precise location placement. Many cars now have GPS devices installed some of which transmit the vehicle’s location to a centralized service. As the devices get cheaper and smaller law enforcement agencies can more easily attach GPS trackers to cars and individuals enabling precise round-the-clock surveillance without ever leaving the precinct. Location-based services including maps of nearby restaurants friend finders and other social networks collect location data as part of providing the service or for contextual advertising.

Developing a Responsible Tech ecosystem (including Diversity in the technology talent and development pipeline)

All Tech is Human
Our activities fall under three main areas: Convening stakeholders/community building (Slack group, summits/mixers, multi-sector working groups), multidisciplinary education (reports, university ambassadors, livestream series) and diversifying the pipeline (Responsible Tech Job Board, mentorship program, Responsible Tech Guide).

Introduction to the Responsible Tech movement
The phrase “Responsible Tech” refers to the versatile, multidisciplinary field that aims to better align the development and deployment of digital technologies with individual and societal values and expectations. This requires a better connection between the communities that develop digital technologies and the communities that these technologies impact, with the goal of reducing harm and increasing benefits to all. Responsible Tech views “tech” and “society”as being inextricably intertwined, with technology affecting social human behavior and human behavior affecting technology. Similar to the sustainability movement that seeks to better align business behavior with the interests of individuals and society (thereby reducing harms), the Responsible Tech field aims to better align digital technologies with our civil liberties, notions of fairness, and democracy at large.

I'm curious what you think might be missing.

For those of you working in some of these areas, I'd love to hear where you're looking for and finding useful resources we could share with the sector.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *