Citizen engagement coupled with technology is helping to usher in a new age of conflict reporting, tracking and mitigating. Geo-tagging locations where violence has broken out is just one of the tools currently assisting peacebuilding efforts. Here, we detail a diverse list of tools that allow people to report suspicious activities and instances of violence; develop strategies to mitigate an outbreak of conflict and connect and support those whose job it is report from the frontline.
One of the biggest players in the 'tech4peace' sphere, Ushahidi was brought to life in 2008 to map breakouts of violence following elections in Kenya with citizens sending in details about these outbreaks via the web or mobile phone. Since then, the platform has morphed exponentially, offering open source software to those looking to set up similar mapping projects (where data can be submitted/collected via SMS, Twitter, email and the web) as well as a programme that can sort, filter and verify large amounts of data in short periods of time.
CrisisTracker was designed by Portugal-based Swede Jakob Rogstadius during his PhD studies and is an open source online platform which works by accumulating information from Twitter about activities that could lead to an outbreak of conflict into a real-time situation awareness tool. The information available on these networks is screened and accessed in real-time through the application programming interface and then analysed, providing a structure to the mass amount of eyewitness, on-the-ground reports that come through social media everyday by using crowdsourcing techniques to contextualise the information generated and make predictions about situational developments.
Electoral Risk Management Tool
In an effort to help keep electoral processes as democratic, transparent and peaceful as possible and also help minimise outbreaks of electrion-related violences, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance developed a tool that electoral bodies, organisations and individuals can adapt to their region to generate risk maps and brainstorm ways to mitigate conflict. The tool provides: a digital library of 'risk factor' resources that can be tailored to the user; the ability to analyse and visualise data in the form of maps and charts; and action points and background information for developing mitigation strategies in the event of election-related violence.
Satellite Sentinel Project
Started by Hollywood actor George Clooney and activist John Prendergast, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) uses satellite imaging technology to promote humanitarian efforts, particularly those linked to peace and conflicts. The satellite images, taken in specific locations, act as an early warning system to deter mass atrocities by focusing world attention on areas where tensions might be hostile and then generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns. The idea for SSP was hatched during a trip to Sudan in 2010 with the aim of producing field reports on the state of the conflict in the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan. SSP works with Digital Globe (who implement a number of satellite tracking projects) to produce satellite imagery and analysis. You can read the organisations' reports on the conflict in South Sudan while their satellite imagery is available for download via Flickr.
ENOUGH Project Satellite image of burned village near Dilling, South Kordofan, Sudan
Run by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, this project is structured around three key areas: research; data collection; and digital mapping in conflict-afflicted areas. The Kobo Toolbox provides individuals and organisations easy-to-use, free open source tools that make for secure data collection in areas (such as those affected by conflict) where large population surveys can be tricky. The software computes the data swiftly so that the results can be made rapidly available and can then be plotted on a digital map thanks to the mapping component.
Plataforma de Periodismo
Specific to Colombia, this platform was created by and for local journalists who cover conflict and its aftermath in the country (but is also of relevance to anyone from the general public interested in learning more about conflict in Colombia). The idea behind the platform is to proliferate thoughts and best practice solutions for covering conflict and, above all, peacebuilding activities in Colombia in a responsible manner and includes case studies, interviews, digital tools, as well as a list of emerging vocabulary pertaining to the conflict.
Standby Task Force
Borne out of the 2010 International Conference on Crisis Mapping, Standby Task Force offers an open source model for digital volunteering in the field of crisis support operations, primarily focused on crisis and conflict mapping as well as a number of other supporting techniques. Standby Task Force is able to deploy a team of volunteers to develop mapping solutions in response to natural disasters and outbreaks of conflict and has undertaken projects that canvassed crisis areas in: the Philippines following Typhoon Pablo/Bopha; Libya; Syria; and South Sudan among others. Interested in lending your skills as a volunteer? Get in touch direct via their website.