Are We Talking in Code?

26 January 2006

A fascinating workshop on the relationship between China and Africa…talk of partnerships, collaboration, mutual interests. A powerpoint chart shows too curves showing the parallel growth of imports and exports between China and Africa…looks terribly equitable, but a rather familiar pensions expert seated in front of me mutters, “I wonder how much of the African exports are raw materials and the imports arms”. The veritably smooth, seamless nature of the panel contributions drives one participant to ask “are we speaking here in some code I do not understand…China has a poor name in Africa, will they sign up to the Extractive Industries Extractive Industries, the Equator Principles and other collaborative codes of practice”. The response is short and sweet, from Chinese panellists, “there is no code, just a growing partnership of mutual interest”, and from another panellist, this time from Africa, “our relationship with Africa is our concern, and our opportunity, we do not want to hear the views of non-Africans and NGOs”. Whilst muting the all too non-African voice, the workshop energy shimmers with such blunt headed resistance to (somewhat more) open dialogue. Another participant pitches a more eloquent, nuanced version of the same…nope, the China/Africa partnership remains firm, firm in not answering the challenge and retorting in terms that challenges its very legitimacy…some global partnerships it seems, are less public than others, even ones involving sovereign states rather than private business.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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