Understanding what role, if any, technology can play in effectively helping those affected by conflict and crises, and what makes its use successful, is crucial when faced with the sudden onset of catastrophe. In this blog I outline a new platform designed for exchanging ideas and for learning about this area from the experiences of others - from success and failure and from insights gained along the way.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is in widespread use today in conflict and crisis mitigation and response. There is technology available to collect, communicate, visualise and analyse information. In practice, the use of various forms of ICT in peacebuilding efforts include radio stations that train young journalists for conflict-resolution in the cross-border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan (PACT Radio), the assessment of the quality of the 2007 electoral process in Sierra Leone through trained citizen monitors who texted their observations on the day via SMS to a central system (National Election Watch) and citizen mapping applications such as MapKibera.
Conflicts and crises are complex situations that have their own continuously changing dynamics, where unpredictable things can happen. In the real world, many factors interact with each other such as physical, hierarchical, cultural, religious, environmental and geopolitical ones. These, often intangible factors, make it difficult for those who work in crisis and conflict situations to give a straightforward answer to the question of what is ‘right’, of what is feasible and fitting to do, in any given conflict or crisis situation. Finding out what is really appropriate in the specific context, what is needed given the local realities, is often neglected. I think there are different reasons for this: sometimes it is because the complexity of a situation is not captured and grasped adequately, sometimes because of a lack of ways of working to engage with the given reality, and sometimes simply because it is not possible to achieve what is needed with available resources. Ready-made 'solutions' for conflict and crisis scenarios, that were created using limiting assumptions, often do not acknowledge realities on the ground.
Taking this into account, the ICT in Conflict & Disaster Response and Peacebuilding crowdmap provides a platform for collating information on who is doing what in the field of ICT in Crisis and Peacebuilding, for the purpose of sharing experiences and learning from each other. In practice, the platform consists of a map on which participants can record their activities and which can be browsed for entries.
The map captures the large variety of activities carried out in projects, programmes and initiatives at various levels of society and decision-making. Submissions to the map are made by people who operate in the field. Their work ranges from the establishment of ICT-aided public policies to actual technological solutions for information capture or management employed in local peacebuilding contexts.
What makes this resource unique is the cross-disciplinary coverage of ICT–related activities by participating entities. It provides the possibility, especially for those people operating 'on the ground', to help build up the resource and to submit information on their work.
The map helps to create awareness about the variety of activities carried out in very diverse contexts, and invites practitioners to share experiences so that the benefits obtained by learning from others will eventually reach those affected by conflict and crisis.
This article was written with contributions from Laura Morris, an independent researcher in crisis communication. Christine and Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org