Tools and Trends in Peace and Technology

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Dmitriy Synkov is the editorial and marketing assistant at the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Building Peace Forum. Synkov has formerly covered international development and education policy for The Borgen Project and the National Education Association. He holds an undergraduate degree from UNC Charlotte. 5

Technology draws on many disciplines within the scientific arena, from traditional tools to modern innovations. This includes the fields of information technology, computer science, and engineering, as well as telecommunications and geoinformatics.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)
  • Definition: ICTs are defined by the United Institute of Peace as a “diverse set of tools used to create, disseminate, and manage information.” This can include any platform used to relay data—from cell phones to social networking sites to the Internet itself—within any fields or discipline that relies on technology.
  • Application: ICTs can be mobile phones used for surveys, crowdsourcing platforms used to gather real-time data from witnesses, or social media tools used to announce, organize, and report on protests, elections, and movements.
New Media
  • Definition: New media is an umbrella term for digital, text, photo, and video content that individuals generate through social media applications and platforms and submit through the Internet or mobile devices.
  • Application: New media updates allow individuals, organizations, and governments to monitor developments as they unfold, hear a range of voices, and share attitudes on important issues and events. New media has also been used extensively for mobilization, most notably during the Arab Spring.
Big Data
  • Definition: According to Search for Common Ground, big data “refers to the massive quantities of data that are now generated daily as part of the increasing computerization of systems and records by governments and companies today.” It captures the fluid, real-time information available online worldwide, ranging from text messages and social media content to online survey responses.
  • Application: Peacebuilders have used big data to create early-warning and early-response systems, conflict and crisis mapping networks, and real-time feedback for monitoring and evaluation efforts.
  • Definition: The Geneva Peacebuilding Platform defines crowdsourcing as the “outsourcing of specific tasks to an undefined public, a crowd.”
  • Application: Crowdsourcing has been used to monitor elections, protests, movements, conflicts, natural disasters, and peace processes, turning everyday civilians into voluntary information gatherers and providing organizations with eyes and ears from the field.
Online Mapping
  • Definition: Online mapping allows one to collect and analyze data linked to a specific geographic area and track movement across different locations over time. You have most likely created geolocated data yourself by allowing an app to access your geographic coordinates on your smartphone—whether checking in on Swarm, tweeting a photo from a live concert, or requesting a ride from Uber.
  • Application: Online maps have been used by development and peacebuilding professionals to track the spread of conflict, monitor elections, and coordinate responses to natural disasters. The 2010 Haiti earthquake is seen by many as the fountainhead of what is now known as “crisis mapping,” the tracking of a crisis over time through the submission of updates from on-the-ground witnesses.
(Feature Photo Credit: Courtesy of Endalk Chala)
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