UNDP: Access to technology can help prevent violent conflicts
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) website features a post by Ozonnia Ojeilo describing the way that mobile phones, social media and other web-based resources have been used to disseminate warnings about potential violence in troubled hot-spots, facilitate rapid responses to emerging conflicts, analyze trends and inform better programming.
Ojeilo notes that the last decade has seen advances in technology that help us to understand other people’s realities and better listen to each other. Over five billion people—around 77 percent of the global population—own or have access to mobile phones worldwide and the top ten social networking sites in the world have more than 4.6 billion combined users.
As the technology to take advantage of these advances decreases in price, more people in developing countries who had no access to so much as a phone ten years ago are now able to benefit from these new tools to improve their lives; manage commerce; seek emergency assistance; advocate for their own interests; and now also take part in the prevention of violent conflicts. Peacebuilders are now taking advantage of the new possibilities to reduce conflict on a local and global scale.
For example, during the 2010 constitutional referendum in Kenya UNDP-supported peace monitors were trained to collect local information and rapidly respond to messages received via text messages, enabling local peace committees to intervene and mitigate emerging conflicts. More than 16,000 text messages were sent by concerned citizens, and an estimated 200 potential incidents of violence were prevented in the Rift Valley region alone thanks to a scheme that took advantage of this emerging technology. The system is now in place for the upcoming elections in Kenya.
Similarly, in Kyrgyzstan, crowdsourcing and the open source interactive mapping software Ushahidi were used to monitor Election Day violations last year. Almost 3,000 mobile text messages from peace monitors and concerned citizens were submitted to the platform, thereby increasing the transparency of the elections and allowing observers to see the emerging picture “live” and respond accordingly.
The Times of India recently reported that every poor family in the country may soon get a mobile phone, further attesting to the power that digital devices have to combat not only direct violence, but also structural violence like entrenched poverty.