After the conclusion of World War II, the global community came to realize the devastating effects of war and genocide. As a result, international laws protecting human rights were developed on the principle that all individuals possess inherent equality in rights and dignity. On December 10th, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly officially adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which serves as the foundation for the global protection of human rights.
Today, human rights continue to be a global concern, but as more and more individuals access the digital realm, new opportunities and challenges related to human rights have emerged. The digital transformation has brought about both positive and negative impacts on human rights, from the ability to freely express oneself online to the rise of cyberbullying and online harassment.
dtacblog spoke with Rachaya Kulnapongse, dtac’s Head of Sustainability, about the mobile operator’s stance in protecting and promoting human rights, the human rights due diligence process, and emerging human rights risks that come with digital advancement.
Connectivity is a Basic Right
“Digital inclusion or digital access is always a significant focus in the field of telecommunication. We focus on three areas to promote this: ensuring access to internet-enabled devices and connectivity services, promoting safe navigation of the digital world, and maximizing connectivity and digital technologies to the benefits of individuals, families, and communities,” said Ms. Rachaya.
After assessing the potential risks and impacts of the telecommunications industry on human rights, dtac has identified the right to information and freedom of expression as important, and the mobile operator is committed to safeguarding and promoting these rights as part of its efforts to foster a digitally inclusive society.
“We understand that connectivity plays a vital role in enabling the exchange of ideas and access to information and essential services, that’s why we have developed our policies, organizational strategies, and products and services based on the principles of equality, fairness, dignity, and mutual respect,” Ms. Rachaya said.
People at the Heart of Business
The business sector is a significant social entity that plays a vital role in the protection and promotion of human rights, as people are central to nearly every business, whether directly or indirectly.
“We believe that people are the foundation of growth, which is why our business operations are focused on people,” Ms. Rachaya said. “In addition to digital rights, labor and employee rights are also crucial for us. We ensure equal treatment and fairness for all our employees and strive to promote workplace diversity and freedom of expression.”
To effectively identify potential human rights risks, dtac conducts a human rights due diligence every two years. This allows the mobile operator to have a comprehensive understanding of the risks within its entire value chain.
“Managing human rights risks is similar to managing corporate risks, but human rights due diligence focuses on risks to people, whether they be customers, employees, suppliers and their families, people living near dtac’s cell sites, government officials working with dtac, or the general public,” Ms. Rachaya explained.
Human rights due diligence begins with identifying adverse impacts or potential negative impacts from human rights violations. dtac will then identify its potential direct and indirect involvement in those situations, evaluate the severity and likelihood of those risks, and review the parties affected. This process sets the foundation for developing plans to address human rights risks in order to enhance the protection of human rights, prevent violations, and mitigate the effects of any violations that do occur.
“The human rights due diligence process enables us to identify salient human rights issues. The actions taken to address these risks may include creating effective policies, implementing preventative systems, or collaborating with external organizations to establish some preventive mechanisms,” said Ms. Rachaya. “Additionally, dtac may consider investing in the development of practical knowledge, conducting research, and raising public awareness about these risks.”
Some salient human rights risks may not be directly related to the business but may have a severe impact on a large number of people, such as leading to social and political exclusion, physical harms, threats to mental health, and damage to property.
“Most human rights challenges that the telco industry faces are related to connectivity, which come with both opportunities and risks,” Ms. Rachaya said. “While connectivity services enable us to communicate and spread information faster, they also increase the risk of spreading information that may violate human rights, cause data breaches, or constitute a form of hate speech. And it could prompt many negative consequences, especially among those who are most vulnerable to misinformation.”
You can learn more about dtac’s stance on human rights at https://www.dtac.co.th/sustainability/th/rb/Human-Rights.