Humane tech: Not just about the users, but also applies to hardware and workforce

We have had so many discussions on humane technology so far, but most of it was from the perspective of tech companies creating digital products for consumers and users.

Very little has been said about how these products are produced. And there are lots of things wrong with this as well. We should ask ourselves: Even if we - with our consumer pressure - make a company behave ethically and have it create more humane products, then shouldn’t this go all the way, and include the entire supply line.

We have seen scandals surrounding Apple in the past where Foxconn employees were working like slaves almost, and today there was this in The Guardian:

This time about Amazon and their Kindle. But similar stories could be told for all hardware that we are using, regardless of who created it. Computers and smartphones have become essential tools in our lives, but we should have better products to choose from.

I know very little examples of humane tech hardware, except for: FairPhone


Yes and the graveyards of electronic waste we haul to China… If we can’t thriw these things away in our own country maybe we use too much.


In reaction to @PaulaFairphone’s great Intro to the community:

I’m Paula from the Fairphone Community.
Just heard of this community through @aschrijver’s post here.

From browsing this forum a bit I see it concentrates more on the software side than the hardware side of technology. I didn’t find a lot of topics about Fairphone’s core principles here:

  • conflict free & fair mining
  • working conditions
  • circular economy

But to be fair even on the Fairphone forum we talk a lot about software. You can run the Fairphone almost completely without G%§$e or any other big company’s software that spies on you.

You are absolutely right that there is less focus on Humane Tech hardware. But I think this applies to the wider world as well. Fairphone is unique in that it investigated the whole supply chain and production line of a smartphone, striving to improve where possible.

I am using Samsung myself, which is much worse still. Besides (probably) inhumane production issues, they are horrible, horrible privacy invaders. The one thing they have going for them as opposed to Apple is the openness of the Android developer platform.

Most people only look to the user / consumer side of the equation. E.g. Apple iOS phones score well (especially with recent focus on Privacy as USP), but completely forget about the scandals some years ago surrounding their production (Foxconn), let alone how the materials are sourced.

What I really like is that Fairphone is now also looking at the software side, the OS’es. I follow’s /e/ development for a while, and voted for that OS in the Poll on the Fairphone community forum. I am not sure what OS’es are officially supported right now (seeing only Android 7.1.2 Nougat on the product page).

The way Fairphone is manufactured is a big, big (huge) selling point, of course. But personally I have become a bit of a privacy geek (being part of this community automatically makes you so :slight_smile: ). You can install LineageOS (and also Fairphone Open which I do not know much about, but looks cool), but apparently LineageOS is still making requests to Google even without GApps installed (e.g. see this HN discussion).

Below image (taken from website) gives an indication of how often regular phones may contact Google (just indicative, coming from this study (PDF)):

Samsung and Apple contacting Google servers

Another phone I am following, that is not humanely produced (AFAIK) is the Librem5. What attracts me here is the privacy-first focus and building both hardware and software with that in mind from the ground up. This phone has hardware switches for turning off Wi-fi, camera, mic, etc. And it is attractive to me as a developer, because it can run any Linux distro (but it will not run regular Android apps initially).

Something I’d like to see in Fairphone is modularity when ordering. E.g. I don’t need the front camera for taking selfies. Maybe I even don’t need the camera at the back.

But anyway, Fairphone is great humane tech. In this forum we have an Exemplars category to contain the best examples of Humane Tech, with the purpose to learn from them and continue to evaluate their development. And in future we may do more with these exemplars (like actively promote them on our website and social media channels).

I think Fairphone warrants a well-deserved place in the Humane Tech Exemplars category :smiley:


As an active member of the Fairphone Community I obviously think the ethics behind hardware are very important, but not every community can tackle all problems in the world at once. If this community concentrates on the software side that’s fine too.

There are not many. There is Shiftphone and NagerIT as other good examples. On the Fairphone forum we have a short list here, but apart from the companies already mentioned most of these hardware projects are again mostly about (software) freedom.

They donated nets to Foxconn factories, so the factory workers couldn’t commit suicide anymore and apparently most customers were satisfied with that reaction. :slightly_frowning_face:

Officially supported by Fairphone is only Fairphone OS (with GAPPS) and Fairphone Open OS (without GAPPS), but Lineage OS and I think Ubuntu are both officially supported by their communities. I guess it will be the same with /e/ once it’s no longer beta.

I’m no expert, but I believe I am sufficiently blocking those via hosts file and AdAway. Only downsides: I can’t register to sites that use G%§$e’s re-captcha and the wifi indicator always shows an “x” symbolizing no internet connection because the system can’t ping - but internet works nonetheless.

Yeah, the modularity is not quite there yet. You can disassemble those modules and sell them, but you’ll have holes that invite dirt and moist and if you disassemble the top module you’re not only getting rid of the selfie camera, but also the proximity & light sensors the internal speaker and the headphone plugs. So you could only phone and listen to music/videos with the loudspeaker anymore.


Yes @PaulaFairphone , so terrible and sad. And this eludes most of their user base, who crow about each new product launch, sleeping on the front porch of the Apple store to be the first to pay for their extensive gadget.

If you find more candidates I would be delighted to add them to Awesome Humane Tech or - even better - merge a PR. Did I notify you of about earlier? Can’t remember, so:

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I was shocked to the core when I saw this news related to the factory workers. No person in this world deserves this much grief (exactly at their workplace) that they are deciding to do this.


This topic talks mostly about phones, but we should also consider keyboards, mice, monitors, etc…

I have arthritis from scrolling too much as part of my work. The cartilage from one of my fingers is completely gone and it causes great pain. I would like to see the mouse and keyboard re-tdesigned (I don’t know how) to prevent injuries. The ergonomic keyboard isn’t enough, there needs to be some hard work put into figuring out how to make devices work with us instead of making us work with them.
Stand-up desks offer some relief to sitting all day, but even that isn’t the complete solution.

I’m only 41, I have over 20 years of working left before I can retire.

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So sorry to hear that @lisatwin1! I am an ergonomics nut, and I would LOVE to discuss that angle. I think this thread is more about the factory conditions of these devices than the ergonomic implications for users.