Peace through technology: a framework

In this digital age, technology is altering how we engage with the world, offering new avenues for social change. Like any other tech-driven sociological shift, the expansion of these technologies of engagement requires our attention because it shifts the dynamics of social organization. This has important implications for how we protect and build peace. And yet most discussions on technology and peace focus only on how ICTs can help in early warning and crisis response. Few pay attention to the use of technology for peacebuilding, social cohesion and peace advocacy. My colleague Anne Kahl and I have just published this article in Stability Journal’s Special Collection on new technologies for conflict prevention in an attempt to expand the discussion to cover other areas of peacebuilding practice and other technologies of engagement.

In particular, we propose a simple taxonomy of functions that technology can have in peacebuilding:

  1. Data processing: improving data collection, organizing and analysis processe
  2. Communications: providing new avenues for sharing information and stories
  3. Gaming: introducing elements of gaming that can provide alternative incentives for action
  4. Engagement: creating new ways for people to influence or take action in their community

We then cross-reference these functions with four peacebuilding program areas:

  1. Early warning / early response programs
  2. Programs fostering contact and collaboration between groups in conflict settings
  3. Programs aiming to promote peaceful attitudes
  4. Programs supporting communities to influence policy towards peace.

The matrix and examples provided in the paper illustrate this taxonomy. Or for a quick overview, this prezi is an early version of the same framework with a few selected examples.

Michaela Ledesma and I have also been curating this database of tech-enabled peacebuilding projects that is organized using the same taxonomy. It is still a work in progress, we are adding projects every week and would welcome any suggestions on how to make it a more useful resource for practitioners and activists.

And since a paper and a database are probably not enough to really expand the conversation about how to build peace through technology, we’re also organizing a conference. The Build Peace conference will bring together practitioners, activists and technologists from around the world to share ideas and experiences on leveraging technology for peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Over the course of two days, we will explore how information and communications technologies, games, networking platforms and other tools can enhance the impact of a broad range of peacebuilding, social cohesion and peace advocacy initiatives. Registrations for the conference are now open and we welcome your suggestions for working sessions. Join us, let’s figure out how to build peace through technology.

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