UNDP explores how new technologies can support conflict prevention
Opportunities for applying new technologies such as mobile technology and social media for conflict prevention are increasing rapidly, following the speed in which access to technology is expanding. New technologies offer unique and innovative opportunities, allowing real-time information to inform preventive action in potential conflict. The speed in which information is gained, shared, and acted upon is key to ensuring stakeholders are able to coordinate timely responses and address tension before escalating into violence. Recognizing the potential of technology for early warning and early response, UNDP is deeply involved in forging new ways in the application of digital tools to conflict prevention.
In Kenya for example, UNDP has pioneered crowdsourcing for conflict prevention during the country’s constitutional referendum in 2010. With the memories of the 2007/ 2008 post-election crisis still fresh – the Uwiano platform was deployed, consisting of a toll-free SMS service allowing people from around Kenya to report threats. A total of 20,000 SMS messages were received, analyzed, and verified by volunteers and responses initiated involving civil society groups and the police. The referendum passed without violence. The Uwiano Peace Platform - is now in place for the upcoming elections in Kenya.
The quality and reliability of ways of tracking trends in violent and deadly conflicts has improved markedly in recent years. One promising area that requires more exploration is how such innovation can be put to the service for conflict prevention initiatives. Digital tools offer the possibility of facilitating rapid information flows, enabling timely, localized responses before tensions erupt into violence. It is important to note that any application of new technology for conflict prevention will complement, not replace, existing conflict prevention frameworks. In this light, they present exciting potential for complementing and strengthening existing infrastructures for peace.
UNDP, together with the International Peace Institute (IPI) and USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM), is undertaking a study to explore the use of new technology in contexts of criminal violence and citizen insecurity; long-term prevention approaches; restrictive environments; crisis contexts, as well as the role of big data in identifying broader patterns to inform structural prevention (economic indicators, public health, population movements, etc.).