Blogging the General Assembly

15 September 2005
I am sitting in the General Assembly hall, where the UN has conveniently provided wireless internet. The president of Georgia is speaking and no one is listening (sorry Georgia). Many of the politicians on the UN's trademark blue benches are wearing translation headphones, but in the small booths above the GA floor we have loudspeakers. In case you should miss a speech (or aren't paying attention) there are copies of all the speeches available in the press room. These vary from simple two-sided photocopies (most countries) to laminated folders and embossed paper (China, and a few African nations). The president of Nauru has been followed by the president of the Republic of Congo, and now the president of Mongolia is speaking (I'm typing slow). Still, no one is listening (sorry small or poor countries). But the hall is filling up a little, perhaps because Italy, Israel and France are speaking later. Personally, I am waiting for the kingdom of Denmark (small and rich country where I was born). India just took the stage, and the hall has gotten a little quieter. You can watch the whole thing on UN webcast if you think you're missing out. You'd think there was something more productive for world leaders to do when they were finally all gathered in the same place. When everyone says what's expected of them, it really isn't too exciting. And yes, mobile phones do go occasionally off in the audience (bad Chad). It would be much more fun, if they conducted this part of the Summit in quick panel discussions with four-five leaders at a time on subjects of regional or international interest - make the presidents sweat a little. This environment is way too sterile to produce anything useful or informative. Although I guess the symbolic value of it all shouldn't be discounted. PS: The president of Saint Kitts and Nevis is pretty good speaker. Next up: Cambodia.

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.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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