On the 22nd and 23rd May, I had the privilege of attending the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum on behalf of Knomo. I hope you enjoy reading about the event and our involvement below from my perspective.
Franco / Knomo
For many of us in the UK or America, ‘Defending Democracy’ is not always a topic of conversation we feel the need to have.
So, when Knomo were invited to partner with the Oslo Freedom Forum - hosted by the Human Rights Foundation - we were excited at the prospect of spending time learning and speaking with some of the world’s most prominent activists and philanthropists from around the world.
From Ghanaian investigative journalists to North Korean defectors to sitting politicians, fighting for the rights of persecuted people, and even the ousted President of the Maldives; the Oslo Freedom Forum aims to bring injustices into the public conversation and out of the shadows. Or, as Joe Lansdale (tech investor and philanthropist) puts it “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
I felt welcome from the moment I arrived at Oslo Gardemoen Airport, unsurprising given that Norway was recently voted as the ‘happiest country in the world’ according to the World Happiness Report 2017. Citing national “caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance” makes the city the perfect location for hosting the annual conference, now in its 9th year.
What does Knomo have to do with the Oslo Freedom Forum?
We met the Human Rights Foundation team at WIRED 2016 where they saw the products we had specially designed, and believed that a similar backpack might be perfect for their annual event in Oslo. The nature of the water-resistant materials and RFID blocking appealed to the themes of safety and versatility, and we set to choosing some styles that would work for the event guests.
We don’t design products for stationary people. We would like to think that the guests of the Freedom Forum - the activists, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and journalists - will be able to put the Harpsden Backpacks to rigorous use.
Knomo’s mission is to design products to get life organised so that you can #LiveFree. We pride ourselves on equipping men and women with products to help them pursue fulfilling work and personal lives. Outside of America and Western Europe, this can seem like a luxury, but to us, the ability to choose our own paths is one of the most important parts of living in a democracy.
Knomo’s take on some of the Oslo Freedom Forum’s themes
Technology underpins the world’s communications, and therefore plays a crucial role in the spreading of truthful, or un-truthful, messages. In the last few years everyone with a smartphone has become a micro-publisher, with highly opinionated online comments now filling our social channels.
However, with increasingly customised adverts and messages being tailored for ever-so-slightly different audiences, we’re now seeing people within the same families and groups of friends being show different versions of the same story – depending on their persuasion.
As our online devices have become extensions of our bodies and minds, it’s never been more important to think critically as we find out information.
The previous few decades have made it possible for anyone to go anywhere in the world; as the world has been speeding up, many people have chosen to act nomadically and seek fulfilling prospects in any country they choose.
Simply watching the news shows us a different story; travel is under attack. Whether it’s the forced displacement of millions, or the purposeful disbarring of select people from certain areas or countries – our freedom to travel is being threatened from each end of the spectrum.
According to the latest Human Rights Foundation statistics, only 48% of the world lives in a democracy. Think about this for a moment. Over half of the world’s population live under an authoritarian regime. For those of us privileged to enjoy relatively unlimited movement, we have a responsibility to those less fortunate than us, collectively our voices can sway the decision makers, the governments, and the big businesses, to extend the freedoms we enjoy to the global population.
For those few days, #LiveFree took on a far more powerful, necessary message.
A huge thank you to the Human Rights Foundation and the Oslo Freedom Forum for having us.