COVID-19 has compelled millions of us to take our everyday activities online – hosting meetings virtually and using tech to catch up with family and friends. Technology for peace, known as ‘peacetech’, has also increased, with local peacebuilders using social media, data and a host of other tech advancement to drive for peace and tackle insecurity.
So, how can technology harness the power of peace? We set out to answer this question in our latest report, “Digital Pathways to Peace.”
Here are six ways to help nurture peace online:
Keep the story going
Social distancing is preventing communities from meeting in person, but digital platforms allow peace messaging and digital storytelling to continue. Social media, blogs, podcasts and online forums are being used by peacebuilders as ways to ensure they can stay connected and active online. For example, HIVE, an organisation in Pakistan, is using holographic technology to bring to life their messages of interfaith dialogue and social cohesion – telling their story digitally and building awareness around peace.
- Build online communities
Peacebuilders have tapped into powerful online communities to mobilise and drive social change for peace in a time of social distancing. Open and inclusive spaces to exchange and share knowledge have helped develop new partnerships and opportunities for collective analysis and action. Platform4Dialogue, which launched in 2019 by Peace Direct connects people around the globe to online discussions, such as youth‑led peacebuilding and the impact of COVID‑19 . These online networks can help expand effective peacebuilding campaigns and outreach online and build collective strength among civil society.
Advanced technology, advancing peace
Peacebuilders are increasingly using advanced technologies including ‘big data’, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and videogames to more actively engage people in peacebuilding. Take Safecity, a crowdsourced data mapping project in India. They invite women to anonymously submit reports of sexual violence to their platform which collects and maps the reports interactively. To date they’ve collected over 12,000 stories of sexual violence in public spaces – identifying trends and hotspots as well as highlighting high-risk locations of violence.
- Switch it up
Technology is moving at pace, and this is unlikely to change even amid the current climate of uncertainty. Many peacebuilders have adopted a “hybrid” approach , marrying online and offline technologies to maximise their work and ensure they reach people who are not online. Flexibility in switching between analogue and digital tools has made peacebuilders adaptable to difficult environments and tuned in to local realities. As new technologies and changes to our everyday lives arise, staying flexible and balancing technological tools with offline methods will be vital for effective peacebuilding work.
- Safety first
To ensure digital technology is used to end to violence and not inflame it, we must prevent the spread of misinformation, hate speech and inflammatory messages, as well as ensuringthat individuals and their data is protected online. Bring human rights experts and peacebuilding experts into conversations around improving transparency and accountability when regulating content.
Support tech uptake
For tech-based peacebuilding initiatives to reach their potential and to resolve conflict, they must be supported. Donors should should provide material support and training to local civil society to enable effective peacetech initiatives to scale in size. Flexible funding can help to develop staff skills and digital literacy, as well as paying for licenses and costs for online platforms, data storage and internet usage.
To reap the opportunities for peace provided by digital technologies, peacebuilders, policymakers and donors must recognise the potential of technology for peace, and the digital divides that may at the same time undermine these efforts. Investing in and supporting access and inclusion to technology for effective peacebuilding is vital now more than ever.
Read more in our recently published report on how strengthening tech‑based peacebuilding initiatives that foster collaborative approaches and digital inclusion, will have a critical bearing on peace now and in the future.
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