PeaceTech Lab In The Media
mest Africa is excited to announce MEST Portfolio Company Dropque has been accepted into the PeaceTech Accelerator program in Washington D.C. The PeaceTech Accelerator is an eight-week program providing intensive mentorship and training, with particular emphasis on cloud technology, to startups developing and using innovative technologies to help to bring about the end of violent conflict and promote sustainable peace.
In a metallic gold tent in the atrium of the United States Institute of Peace, my colleague and I sang “Happy Birthday” to an eighty-year-old woman living in Mexico City. Rendered life-size on screen, she sat in a tent that looked just the same as the one we sat in, but with our faces looking back at hers, 2,409 miles away.
PeaceTech Lab and Shared Studios
Study after study reinforces the idea that peace is created through deliberate dialogue between diverse groups. The Shared_Studios Portal seeks to empower individuals and communities through technology to advance their unique goals, not as consumers but as citizens. Portals create space for dialogue and are a demonstration of how technology, if constructed well, can thrive as a vehicle for peace. We envision a world where Portals regularly deliver the benefits of globalization to communities that are often left out and believe that peace will take root when diverse groups speak face-to-face. For many, the Portal is where this begins.
Nearly every day, startup companies and nonprofits alike from India to Iraq, the U.S. to Ukraine, South Africa to Sweden are tackling the drivers of violent conflict using tech, media, and data in new and exciting ways. Whether it’s the brilliant website “I Paid a Bribe.com”, which is being used in over 60 countries to expose corruption, or Annona, the startup company in our PeaceTech Accelerator that is tackling food security with software to connect small farmers in Africa with global buyers.
Disruptions and regional unrest in today’s world have far-reaching implications. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that peace is not just a social ideal, but a necessary condition for international commerce. Dr. Rohini Srihari is Chief Data Scientist at PeaceTech Lab, housed at the United States Institute of Peace. Her work has spanned the areas of artificial intelligence, multimedia information retrieval, computational linguistics and text mining. Dr. Srihari spoke with us regarding a multi-purpose technological solution she has developed that delivers critical data for international business and peacebuilding. This technology is called groundTruth, and it provides not only real-time monitoring of disruptive risks across the world, but also historical trends and predictive forecasting across a multitude of factors.
PEACETECH LAB NETHERLANDS
The first PeaceTech Lab Netherlands podcast episode is here! Hear about how Dutch expertise on food and water security is adding to the new vibrant tech-focused approach to maintaining peace and preventing conflict.
Security issues shut down businesses in the Western world, but Afghans are increasingly using technology to keep work going. An explosive boom in mobile phone usage and in apps is shaping the way people communicate, stay safe, keep informed and fill governance voids. This fast growth has spawned some concerns within the Afghan government over the possibility of terrorists also using technology. But the wide support these web-based platforms tailored to Afghanistan’s specific needs enjoy has stymied government efforts to overregulate the internet.
It sounds like a fairly basic solution for today’s energy crisis. Take large amounts of organic waste, convert it to biogas, generate electricity and heat, and store the excess for later use, making life easier for millions of people without access to sources of reliable energy. Simple.
Yet, behind this basic approach from a startup called SEaB Energy Ltd. lies a more complicated and fundamental issue. The world is a big place with a lot of people and many problems that can’t be quickly or easily solved. How exactly can technology play a role and make a meaningful difference in the lives of citizens around the globe?
Washington, D.C. is becoming a hotbed for collaboration among government agencies, non-profit ventures, charitable foundations and private investors, all looking to drive social change through technology. The third cohort of the PeaceTech Accelerator, an accelerator dedicated to reducing violence and scaling peacebuilding efforts through technology, includes OneRelief, a non-profit charitable donation platform that is taking an innovative approach to micro-donations.
Like air or water, people tend to take data for granted. A gigabyte here or there generally doesn’t add up to a lot of money. But what if one gigabyte of data cost more than nice percent of a person’s average monthly income? Read how SuperFluid Labs, a member of the PeaceTech Accelerator's 3rd cohort, is working to solve this problem.
United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner
This report from UNMISS and OHCHR analyzes the right to freedom of opinion and expression in South Sudan from July 2016 to December 2017. PeaceTech Lab Africa's integral work on hate speech in South Sudan is referenced on page 30.
Listen to PeaceTech Lab Africa Director, Theo Dolan, discuss the fourth season of Sawa Shabab, a radio drama aimed at helping youth in South Sudan resolve conflicts peacefully.
PEACE NEWS NETWORK
Check out Peace News Network's top picks for peace initiatives to keep an eye on this year, featuring PeaceTech Lab's work on stopping hate speech in Kenya and South Sudan.
C5, the specialist technology investment group with offices in Washington, London, Munich, Luxembourg and Bahrain, has partnered with the IPSI Institute and Creative Learning to host participants in Washington, DC.
The startups are bringing data to social impact, and working to help small farmers. Applications are open to join the 2018 cohort of the D.C.–based program.
DAILY NEWS EGYPT
The death toll from global terrorism-related attacks accounted for approximately 6,123 fatalities in 2017, including the Friday Rawda mosque attack in Egypt, according to data from the “terrorist attacks map”, a collaboration between the Esri Story Maps team and PeaceTech Lab, made to present a chronology of terrorist attacks around the globe.
Looking for some big money in exchange for support and recognition? You could try a business accelerator. In all, 19 South African and international accelerators tracked by Ventureburn have so far this year given out a total of $17-million in funding to 1,241 startups. At about $37,000 per startup, that isn’t anything to sniff at.
Sheldon Himelfarb talks about how technology is being used to fight corruption – and why the world needs initiatives like Shield in the Cloud.
Sheldon Himelfarb, CEO of US-based PeaceTech Lab which has researched how social media impacts political awareness, said social media can help break down barriers between people across the globe.
But he warned researchers were still trying to assess whether the selective nature of what is published helps or hinders efforts to gain a fuller picture.
"I believe in my conversations with university students. They seem to imply they are more aware about parts of the world than certainly their parents were. But whether or not they are more accurately informed I don't know."
A report by PeaceTech Lab, operating under the United States Institute for Peace, shows that words that were once used against a specific ethnicity in South Sudan are now being used to target different groups to match the changing context of the conflict. Theo Dolan, Director of PeaceTech Lab Africa, says abusive and dangerous language continues to be disseminated across various social media platforms.
In this podcast, INPROL Director Lelia Mooney and Senior Program Assistant Chelsea Dreher discuss data collection technologies with Derek Caelin, Senior Specialist for PeaceTech Lab. Derek works on the Lab’s PeaceTech Exchange program, an initiative to connect peacebuilders in conflict zones to media, technology, and data for them help them achieve their objectives. Working with local partners, Derek and the PeaceTech Exchange team have put on workshops in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to address issues such as Transparency & Accountability, Countering Violent Extremism and Gender Based Violence.
As an independent nonprofit, the Lab brings together do-gooders that run the professional gamut: engineers, entrepreneurs, activists, conflict experts, social scientists, data scientists, and more. The concept is simple: Bring together bright, optimistic minds in order to find solutions that will bring peace and prosperity to communities around the globe.
C5 Accelerate (C5A), the Cloud Innovation Centre for best-of-breed startups, has today announced that it has entered into a new Innovation Partnership with SAP National Security Services, Inc. (SAP NS2™) the independent, US subsidiary SAP, and leading provider of national security enterprise technology. This partnership will further strengthen the work being done by C5A’s Washington PeaceTech Accelerator to identify and nurture rising stars within the global peacetech market. The Peacetech Accelerator is operated in partnership with Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) and PeaceTech Lab, and is focused on attracting and monitoring companies seeking to tackle national security issues and address the root causes of conflict, particularly in crisis zones.
Theo Dolan, director of PeaceTech Lab Africa, which works to reduce violent conflict using technology, media, and data, believes words do matter. He says PeaceTech’s research has shown that online hate speech – mainly coming from South Sudan’s diaspora in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia – is contributing to the violence.
A report on the use of hate speech on social media and its impact on the conflict in South Sudan has been released, indicating the use of new terminologies to spread hatred.
The report by PeaceTech Lab, operating under the United States Institute for Peace, lists emerging terms such as ‘terrorist’ to make attacking comments against ethnic groups.
The bi-weekly reports track publicly available dangerous language found on various social media platforms in order to make connections between online hate speech and violent events.
Theo Dolan, the Director of PeaceTech Lab Africa, explains that the purpose of their reporting is to help mitigate the spread of hateful language in fueling violence on the ground.
The head of UNMISS orders the U.N. backed regional protection force stationed near Juba airport to relocate; Bishop Paride Taban says South Sudanese refugees in Ugandan settlement camps live in dire conditions and want to return home; and the government of Egypt delivers food and relief items to help South Sudanese civilians affected by hunger and disease.
Peace News Network
Kenya's past elections have been marred by violence, and with citizens heading to the polls on August 8, observers are concerned about the impact of hate speech. SMS text messages, in particular, have been blamed for partially fueling violence that led to 1,400 deaths following the 2007 election.
However, during this year's election, SMS messages are being used to try to diffuse tension, and social media is being used to monitor hate speech.
What is hate speech?
"The definition we use for hate speech is really the general definition, which is speech that attacks a person or group, on the basis of their race, their gender, their ethnic origin, their religion, or sexual orientation," said Giselle Lopez, from PeaceTech Lab, who has been researching the impact of hate speech and conflict in the region – including neighboring South Sudan.
"In the case of most of the work that we do there's another category of speech, called dangerous speech, which is speech that is very likely to lead to violence," Ms Lopez said.
It's looking for startups that want to use technology to assist communities in crisis.
Five months ago, when Amazon Web Services, C5 and the PeaceTech Labdebuted their inaugural cohort for the PeaceTech Accelerator, several misconceptions were stacked against the project.
Perception topped the list, according to Sheldon Himelfarb, PeaceTech Lab president and CEO.
“When people think about conflict, they’re picturing bombed-out buildings, bullets flying and chaos. But the fact is, in nearly every conflict zone we’ve worked, we see [technology],” Himelfarb said. “You don’t have to be defined by your immediate circumstances — there’s an outlet for expression, for cultivating and sharing new ideas, and for building something with purpose and value.”
US News & World Report
In Kenya, where elections can lead to violence, advocates pin their hopes on technology.
MPEKETONI, Kenya —Two dozen women have arranged themselves in a circle under the shade of a cashew tree, some with infants in their arms and toddlers at their feet. The afternoon meeting in this small farming community near Mpeketoni is not out of the ordinary. What's new is the handful of young people from the city who have come to tell the villagers about a text messaging-based phone app designed to prevent massacres.
"Do you know the meaning of rumors?" asks Margaret Wainaina in Kiswahili, but the women have yet to warm up to questions. "It's when you don't know if something is true or not," she says, receiving steady head nods in response. "If you hear something, before you go tell your neighbor, check with us."
Wainaina is a project coordinator for Una Hakika, an initiative from the Canadian nonprofit The Sentinel Project, an anti-genocide effort. In the regional language Kiswahili, "Una hakika?" means "Are you sure?" and the goal is to squash disinformation that can lead to conflict, especially in the lead-up to Kenya's hotly contested general election on August 8.
International Institute for Sustainable Development
July 2017: The Unreasonable Group, the US Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, and Johnson&Johnson hosted a two-week Unreasonable Goals program that brought together 16 entrepreneurial solutions, each of which aim to solve one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The winning solutions have connected over 7 million job seekers in India, saved almost 3 billion gallons of water and 450 acres of forest, and reused 2.5 million kilograms of plastic waste, among other achievements.
Unreasonable Goals is a public-private partnership dedicated to engaging highly profitable entrepreneurs with cutting edge technologies in contributing to achieving the SDGs. The 2017 event was the inaugural Unreasonable Goals accelerator program. The program is expected to run annually until 2030, collaborating with over 200 entrepreneurs and dozens of multinationals and national government. Lowe’s, Thomson Reuters, Bluescape, Amazon Web Services, and PeaceTech Lab also collaborated on the 2017 program.