Building Unintentional Highways

by | Jun 22, 2022 | ICT4D |

a fence is an unintentional highway

We put a fence up in the garden. It runs from the barn to the stream. It helps keep rabbits out of the vegetable garden and gives a bit of structure to the garden. And it functions well. However, it also functions well as a squirrel highway, which is not helpful or planned for. And it leads to havoc.

The intent was (and still is) good. The execution and finished product is beautiful (it’s a lovely chestnut fence). However, it also enabled something we don’t want nor thought of. And yet, it was avoidable. Now that we see the squirrels going back and forth on their highway, we realise it was predictable. Now we need to think of a plan to disrupt the highway.

This happens in other areas of life too. And a LOT in our use of technology. We collect data about people we want to help and then that same data is used to harm them. We map where we run and then that data is used to harm us. Collecting ‘points’ at the supermarket leads to targeted marketing campaigns. The list can go on.

Perhaps a small and simple step we can do to reduce harm is to invite a discussion about it. To bring together diverse people (not from the project team) and ask them to imagine with you what could go wrong?

Perhaps then, you won’t unitentionally build a squirel superhighway.

Photo by Trey Musk


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