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Protecting the Rights of LGBTQ Individuals

UAlbany partners with START-UP NY company Nowigence, Inc. to launch global data tracker mapping important events concerning the LGBTQ+ population

The UAlbany LGBTQ+ News Activity Tracker will track positive and negative events on a global scale. (Photo by Thomas Hawk, Flickr used by permission)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 12, 2017) -- For LGBTQ+ individuals living in the United States, gaining equal rights under the law has been a long, sometimes violent path. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Supreme Court of the United States struck down laws banning same-sex marriage as violations of the 14th Amendment guaranteeing due process and equal protection.

UAlbany’s own alum Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., also stands as one of the first martyrs in the fight for equal rights following his 1978 assassination. But for LGBTQ+ individuals all over the world, the threat of torture or death for living ‘openly’ are as real today as it was for Milk nearly 40 years ago.

Now the University at Albany and a START-UP NY company are hoping to do something about the plight of LGBTQ+ persons on a global scale.

Developed via a partnership between UAlbany and Nowigence, Inc., one the of the University’s START-UP NY companies, the newly launched UAlbany LGBTQ+ Activity Tracker gathers data globally and over time to map a pattern of positive and negative events concerning the LGBTQ+ population.

The UAlbany LGBTQ+ News Activity Tracker (powered by Nowigence) was developed to track events (such as protests, violence, and efforts at legislation and protection) related to the LGBTQ community in various newspaper articles and media outlets worldwide. The tracker gathers data globally and over time to map a pattern of positive and negative activity trends concerning the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and others aligned with their cause) population.

Victor Asal UAlbany
Project director and UAlbany Associate Professor Victor Asal

“Nowigence has made a tremendous contribution to furthering our ability to track where and how the LGBTQ+ community around the world is being treated,” said Victor Asal, chair of Public Administration and Policy and co-director of the Project on Violent Conflict at UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy.

The tracker provides people around the world with a one-site stop where they can see the daily activity by governmental and non-governmental actors (reported by newspapers), both positive and negative related to the LGBTQ+ community from protests to repression and violence to protection. The laws vary widely from nation to nation, and for LGBTQ+ individuals traveling to countries where rights are restricted, they may endanger their lives unknowingly. Through its proprietary monitoring system, Nowigence can provide real-time, useful data to help keep people safe.

It does this by monitoring more than 60,000 public and private sources, delivering focused and meaningful data.  Far more than a news service, Nowigence seeks to significantly change market intelligence from an abstract, subjective and fragmented guessing game, into a clear, objective, evidence based science supporting strategic and tactical decision-making.

Asal, who heads the project, recently co-authored the book, Legal Path Dependence and the Long Arm of the Religious State: Sodomy Provisions and Gay Rights Across Nations and Over Time. Published last fall, the book examines how and why countries enact laws that criminalize same-sex activities and how countries change these laws. 

“Over time, this data will also serve to allow for robust analysis of the factors that make both positive and negative events more likely, which will enable activists to be aware of what can be helpful or not in changing the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community,” added Asal. “This effort was a true synergy between academia and business and this was possible through the partnership that Nowigence has with the University at Albany under the START-UP NY program.”

“This project is a perfect example of the types of expanded academic benefits that can be derived from our partnerships with START-UP NY companies” added Matt Grattan, Director of Community and Economic Development at UAlbany.   “These collaborations are bi-directional as in many instances the University is assisting a business use case by adding our intellectual assets, however in this instance the University benefited from Nowigence’s technological expertise in data curation to streamline our project deliverables.”

“As part of our ongoing partnership with UAlbany, we are thrilled to collaborate with Dr. Asal’s team to extend the Nowigence platform for use in the social sciences,” said Anoop Bhatia, CEO of Nowigence. “The result is a unique, real-time, global view of topic based, socio-political activity. By supporting this vital research, we were able to provide both a public service and demonstrate the power of the Nowigence platform – a true win-win.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.