Australian Red Cross testing ‘Humanity First’ prototype to guide ethical technology development

Australian Red Cross testing ‘Humanity First’ prototype to guide ethical technology development 


Technology can help us tackle complex social challenges and empower communities. This prototype seeks to realise this potential by ensuring tools and systems are developed in ways that safeguard people’s rights and dignity.

Over the last year, Humanitech - an initiative of Australian Red Cross - has explored a range of practices and approaches to ethical, responsible, and inclusive innovation. We produced a literature review and a prototype that sets out ‘Humanity First’ principles to guide development of technology so that the benefits are maximised and the risks of doing harm are reduced. 

The Humanity First prototype has been created to support organisations and individuals working with technology to investigate the ethical considerations and unintended consequences of their product or service. In its current form, the prototype is made up of nine principles that focus on transparency and privacy, user choice and agency, ethical governance structures, and empowering people and communities to influence the design and decision-making process. 

Humanity First principles: 

  • Maximise good and address harm.  
  • Understand the individual, social, and environmental context of the problem that the solution is targeting.  
  • Design with a clear purpose that is shared with stakeholders. 
  • Be transparent about intentions, capability and use of data and privacy.  
  • Build relationships with all stakeholders impacted by the technology to inform its design and use.
  • Prioritise people and communities at risk of harm within the design and decision-making process and provide the support needed to move at the speed of trust. 
  • Maximise freedom of those affected to control and use technology. 
  • Ensure ethical governance of the technology.  
  • Continually adapt as iterative progress creates the opportunity for greater impact. 

Humanitech has developed these principles in collaboration with stakeholders across sectors and communities. This includes social innovators, people with lived experience, technology developers, and humanitarian practitioners. The prototype integrates components of human-centred design, systems thinking, and principles of co-design - along with considerations of ethics, accessibility, and the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

This first iteration of the Humanity First prototype is now moving through a stage of community and sector consultations and testing, with feedback shaping and refining its design, form, and application. This includes beta testing through the Humanitech innovation lab program, with seven emerging start-ups tackling issues relating to climate change, disasters and emergencies, or equity and justice with the help of data and technology. Additionally, our volunteer Wendy Shang has applied five of the nine Humanity First principles to highlight the issues emerging with the implementation and use of biometric technology. 

Further opportunities for individual or organisational input into the Humanity First prototype will be provided through a series of community consultations. 

Thank you to those who have provided their insights so far: Gus Portes, Si Qi Wen, Chloe Jones, Today Design, InfoXChange, Centre for Public Impact, City of Melbourne, Monash University Emerging Technologies Research Lab, ADM+S Centre, and Australian Red Cross Emergency Services, Migration Support and Community Programs. 

To do this work openly and iteratively, we are also happy to share the working documents and reports that have informed this project to date.  

Please get in touch with us for more information and to register your interest.


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