Meet Research Fellow Beatrice Martini

A get to know you series introducing the digital HKS fellows

digital HKS is an initiative at Harvard Kennedy School committed to teaching public leaders how to understand the relationship between technology, data, and the public interest by teaching public leaders to understand how to design, build, and engage with digital technologies as they relate to civic participation, digital equity and inclusion, governance of government platforms, and accountability. The visiting research fellowship provides a space for thinkers and doers in the sphere of digital technology to explore ideas through research and engagement with the Harvard community at-large.

Beatrice Martini

Photo provided by Beatrice Martini

Beatrice Martini is the Human Rights Technology Lead for Aspiration, a nonprofit connecting organizations, foundations, and activists with software solutions, strategies, and technology skills that help them better carry out their missions. She participates in open source technology initiatives and peer-learning projects as a contributor, facilitator, advisor, and mentor. She also serves in a formal advisory role with The Center for Tech Cultivation.

Martini is researching the social, political, and economic implications of internet architecture. Her latest work focuses on the impact that internet protocols can have on human rights, and what frameworks and opportunities there are for researchers, technologists, civil society organizers, and policy makers to meaningfully discuss and inform future protocol development.

How do you hope your work will impact the world?

Martini’s research tackles an issue that most internet users have never thought about.

“Internet protocols are often invisible to users,” she explained. “They have an engineering function, but observing them only in terms of technical efficiency does not allow to fully understand their capabilities. They enable and control the exchange of information at a global scale, and as such, they hold substantial power, and affect social, political and economic spheres.”

Understanding how these protocols are designed is important in order to understand the impact they have on human rights protections around the world. The more you understand about how protocols are designed and who is designing them, then the more you are able to protect those rights.

“My research aims to contribute to the creation of resources and opportunities designed to foster critical understanding, analysis, and dialog on how the Internet architecture works and what its impact on the rights of users,” said Martini.

By working on her research with a user-centered perspective, Martini can prioritize safety, access, and inclusion to protect the rights of those who would otherwise not understand the mechanisms that could be working against them.

Through her research with digital HKS, Martini hopes to make internet protocols more transparent for those who interact with them most.

“What drives my work is envisioning a future in which anyone who uses, shapes, protects and governs the internet has access to resources to explore what are the implications of its architecture and is able to make an informed decision about how to engage with it.”

In doing so, users can hold those who run these internet protocols accountable ensuring that they are designed with respect for human rights.

Do you have any book recommendations that relate to your work?

Learn more about Martini’s work:

You can find out more about Martini’s work by visiting her blog, subscribing to her newsletter, or following her on Twitter @beatricemartini. You can also read Martini’s recent human rights review of the QUIC protocol here where readers are encouraged to provide feedback.