After years of nearly unchecked tech-optimism, the world is finally waking up to the human rights challenges created by the collision between technology and society around the world. No longer are the promises of a tech-based future going unchecked as experts and laymen increasingly interrogate the agendas and motives of those who hold technology up as the be-all and end-all solution to complex social problems. Technology presents opportunities but also has limits, and it is apparent that what looks great at the centre can be devastating at the periphery.

This presentation will highlight some of the human rights challenges presented by embracing techno-solutionism – throwing technology at complex problems without examining the social and political structures of the societies in which it is deployed. Three contemporary debates will be highlighted: identity systems, electoral systems and fintech systems as currently deployed in countries in the global south. By juxtaposing their promises, what they delivered and what human rights challenges they raise, this talk will re-emphasise the importance of re-centering the political in deciding the role that technology will play in our political systems in future.