Powerful Tech: New Innovations to Fight Rape, Murder, and Atrocities
Can technology single-handedly prevent atrocities? That may be far fetched.
But, it can certainly help collect data, catalogue stories, and build awareness. USAID and Humanity United, a foundation devoted to peace building efforts, partnered together to challenge “techie” minds to create new tools to advance their work in atrocity prevention. Here are the winners of the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention. Tell us what you think – do you think these innovations have the power to create impact?
THE STORYMAKER COALITION: Brian Conley was inspired to develop the StoryMaker mobile application while producing citizen news programs in Iraq and Libya. The app provides 65 lessons for citizen journalists, including guidelines for recording audio, shooting video and photos, uploading stories to the internet, and understanding online and mobile security in conflicted environments. The app, available for Android phones through Google Play, has been downloaded more than 1,000 times in 30 countries since its debut in April 2013. (Photo courtesy of Brian Conley)
CRISIS TRACKER: Jakob Rogstadius, who works in Doha, Qatar, tapped the power of Twitter to create CrisisTracker, a web platform that extracts situation awareness reports from public tweets during disasters. Designed to help analysts recognize and verify emerging events, the tool brings structure to millions of updates in real time. Jakob and his team will launch a major revision of the software in July. (Photo courtesy of Jakob Rogstadius)
IVR JUNCTION: Developer duo Aditya Vashistha and Bill Thies, who work at Microsoft Research India, created IVR Junction — a free tool that connects an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to cloud services such as YouTube, Facebook and other social media. It gives anyone with a Windows-based laptop and modem a voice forum. Affected populations record and listen to posts via a mobile phone, while the global Internet audience can access and contribute recordings. It has currently been deployed in Somaliland, Mali and India. (Photo courtesy of Aditya Vashistha)
PEOPLE’S RADIO: Karoline Kirchhübel, a graduate student in London, devised the “People’s Radio.” It allows people in remote areas to use mobile phones to record voice messages or “spoken Tweets” and submit them to a designated local radio station. The system also has the functionality to allow for semi-automatic curation, which can filter out hate speech. (Illustration by Karoline Kirchhübel)
SERVAL PROJECT: The Serval Project,was created after its developers learned about the crumbling infrastructure in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. The mobile communications system transforms ordinary cell phones into mini towers that can relay messages using Wi-Fi and can act as a communications patch if a mobile network goes down due to disaster, overload or government intervention. The Serval Project system has been tested in remote areas all over the Australian Outback with inspiring results. Here, Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen carries equipment during one such test. (Photo courtesy of Serval Project Inc.)
THREAD: Designed by graduate student T. Annie Nguyen, Thread was named for its ability to “thread” multiple pieces of information together in a single view. It allows people in remote areas to collect and store information offline, then sync the material whenever a Wi-Fi connection becomes available. Designated Thread users can track and evaluate the incoming information to identify potential atrocities. (Photo courtesy of T. Annie Nguyen)
PACT: Richard Brion, a military veteran, was inspired to create the P.A.C.T. (Portable Anonymous Communication Technology) platform by friends in Kenya and Afghanistan, including his friend Zamir, pictured. It enables people in remote or conflicted areas to disseminate information such as voice messages, texts, pictures and videos anonymously and safely, using low-cost, portable communication technologies. P.A.C.T.’s portable solution can integrate with existing third-party technologies, such as Internet balloons, PirateBoxes or Wireless UAVs, to create a single plug-and-play communications network. (Photo courtesy of Richard Brion)