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HKUST and ICRC discuss tech in humanitarian work

According to a recent press release, the Presidents of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) exchanged insights for the first time in an open dialogue recently.

The aim of the dialogue was to explore the opportunities and challenges that technology brings to the humanitarian sector and how Asian youths can play a role in it.

Making his first public speech in Hong Kong, the President of ICRC engaged in a dialogue with the President of HKUST, over the theme New horizons in humanitarian diplomacy: The power of new technologies and Asian Youths.

The dialogue touched upon issues including the emergence of autonomous weapons, the power of new technologies on humanitarian work, and how Asian youths can make an impact amid Asia’s rise in the international arena.

After the warm-up, the Presidents were joined by a high-profile international relations scholar with both local and international recognition, and the Dean of Humanities and Social Science as moderator, to further the discussion in a panel setting.

The prosthetic knee. Source: HKUST, Press Release.

To further deepen University members’ and the public’s understanding towards international humanitarian work, HKUST also staged a three-day exhibition on the campus, showcasing innovations deployed or developed by ICRC for people who work in harsh and rough environments.

Items on display included a new generation of prosthetic knee made to withstand the harsh environments of countries such as Afghanistan and South Soudan, which can be easily repaired and facilitates a range of movements including religious praying.

The solar lamp Source: HKUST, Press Release.

In addition, a cheap, easy-to-operate and powerful solar lamp which gives light without electricity was showcased. The lamp was also designed to charge mobile phones, which are the most empowering tool people have at their disposal when faced with a crisis.

Visitors will also gain first-hand experience of the humanitarian crises happening right now on the other side of the planet – how life is like in an overcrowded prison or crossing a road full of snipers and bombardments, through virtual reality (VR) equipment used for training ICRC staff.

Students from HKUST would be invited to contemplate factors to consider – such as users’ practical needs, when developing products and technology, and how their own skills and knowledge can be applied to humanitarian work.  Selected student ambassadors will also help introduce these items to the visitors, as well as the scale and gravity of contemporary humanitarian disasters.

The President or ICRC stated that currently, more than 120 million people depend on some form of humanitarian assistance. He added that the ICRC welcomes new partners, as a collective effort is needed to alleviate suffering and protect people from the worst of conflict.

Moreover, he stated that he was positive that HKUST, with its top-tier student and strong alumni network, can contribute to creating solutions to pressing global challenges.

The HKUST president stated that while it is common knowledge that new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics are becoming the new tractors of growth, the associated risks and ethical issues need to be better appreciated.

The hope is that the dialogue will help HKUST members to gain a new perspective on technological innovation, and offer solutions to address the issues in hand.

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