PeaceTech Lab Welcomes ChannelsTV Nigeria CEO John Momoh as First International Board Member

September 28, 2016, WASHINGTON, DC- PeaceTech Lab has taken another step towards securing its position as an international leader in the use of technology, media, and data to accelerate local peacebuilding efforts with the addition of ChannelsTV CEO John Momoh of Lagos, Nigeria as its newest board member.

“John Momoh has long served as a distinguished voice of Nigeria, with a career spanning 37 years of broadcast media and journalism and numerous accolades reflecting both his journalistic expertise and integrity,” stated Chairman of the Board and former IBM Executive, Nicholas M. Donofrio. “We are thrilled John has agreed to join the PeaceTech Lab Board and add his voice to the growing PeaceTech movement.”

Board Member and former Undersecretary of State Tara Sonenshine agreed, “The inextricable link between media and conflict is that information is the oxygen with which a civil society breathes. We must have media experts working to ensure that civil society exists and remains free of conflict. It’s wonderful to welcome John to our Board.”

John Momoh is founder and CEO of the Channels Media Group, which operates Channels TV,  Nigeria’s leading independent news and information network. Prior to founding Channels TV in 1995, Mr. Momoh worked variously as a news anchor, senior reporter and senior producer for the Nigerian Television Authority. He is a graduate of the University of Lagos with a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy and a B.Sc (with honours) in Mass Communication. In August 2016, Mr. Momoh was named Chairman of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria, the country’s premier media association comprising a broad coalition of some 250 public and private radio and TV stations. He is the first private-sector media executive to hold the position.

PeaceTech Lab CEO and President, Sheldon Himelfarb, highlighted the significance of the Lab’s first international board member: “John Momoh brings the perspective of someone quite literally on the frontlines of conflict, who has been innovative in the use of media to increase accountability and foster positive change over the course of his career.”

Mr. Momoh expressed his appreciation, saying, “PeaceTech Lab fills a timely, critical need in efforts to combat violence and extremism around the world by leveraging people, tools, and an understanding of how technology, media, and data can reinforce peacebuilding efforts from the ground up. ChannelsTV is committed to expanding the use of data and technology to better support our journalists in the field, and I am proud to be working together to make that vision a reality.”

In March, PeaceTech Lab and ChannelsTV signed an agreement to develop the first independent Hausa-language news service aimed at strengthening the information environment in Nigeria’s northern Hausa and Fulani regions, where intensified terrorist activity carried out by Boko Haram extremists threatens Nigeria’s political and economic stability. Ranked as the deadliest terrorist organization in the world by the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram has contributed to a 300% increase in Nigerian deaths related to terrorism since 2014. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and largest economy according to the 2015 IMF World Economic Outlook report.  

About Channels Television Called “a network built on trust” by Financial Times, Channels is one of the leading private-sector media outlets on the African continent and has been groundbreaking in the Nigerian media space with many notable firsts including: winning the Best TV Station of the Year a record 10 times, first to stream its news and programs live on the internet, first to interface with followers via Twitter and first to create mobile apps on various platforms.

About PeaceTech Lab PeaceTech Lab works for individuals and communities affected by conflict, using technology, media, and data to accelerate local peacebuilding efforts. An independent non-profit organization, the Lab’s mission is to amplify the power of peacetech to save lives through earlier warnings and smarter responses to violence. The Lab’s programs emphasize a data-driven, cross-sector approach, engaging everyone from student engineers and citizen journalists to Fortune 500 companies in scaling the impact of peacetech.

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Extremists are turning Twitter and Facebook into theatres of War

New Scientist

IN NOVEMBER 2015, an ISIS operative shot and killed two US military contractors in Amman, Jordan. Last week, their families filed their third lawsuit against Twitter.

They are blaming the social network for the attack. “For years, Twitter knowingly and recklessly provided ISIS with accounts on its social network,” they claim in their complaint. “Through this provision of material support, Twitter enabled ISIS to acquire the resources needed to carry out numerous terrorist attacks.”

Twitter and Facebook have become theatres of war. In a report released earlier this year, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence outlined how social networks allow states and militant groups to “blur the distinction between peace-time and war-time activities”. Thanks to social networks, they now have not clear if this is coming from them or us. If it’s us, could make this a new paragraph new ways to share propaganda, recruit people to their cause and steal information.

Some of this activity is carried out by people with fake identities, some by bots that make spam posts. For example, they can flood popular hashtags with messages promoting a particular cause or ridiculing opponents.

The report also documents incidents of “catfishing”: the use of fake profiles of attractive women to befriend people. The Taliban has reportedly used this trick to tease information out of Australian soldiers on Facebook. But it is ISIS that exemplifies this modern approach to extremism, relying heavily on social media to spread its message and recruit supporters around the world.

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Director of PeaceMedia and PeaceTech Lab Africa, Theo Dolan, on training Ethiopian Journalists

This transcript is from an interview conducted by Kibrom Worku of AfroFM News in Addis Ababa.

The role of the media in maintaining good governance and accountability is immense.

This was disclosed at a recent training for media personnel based in Addis Ababa. The US Embassy here in Addis Ababa organized the training. The government, the public, civil society, academia and the media are key stakeholders in ensuring good governance and accountability. And the media interconnects all these stakeholders creating the very strong nexus. Afro FM had an exclusive interview with, Director of Peace media and PeaceTech lab Africa, Theo Dolan. Mr. Dolan talked about the very purpose of the training.

“The purpose was to inform journalists here in Addis-- and I was also in Bahir Dar-- to help them understand how the media can support good governance and accountability. I was just trying to present a broad frame work with some examples, taken from different countries to show media’s role and really the impression I got was that there is a lot of room for media coverage of social accountability. How media can create a space for diverse voices and raise issues of good governance at the community level so, to help encourage governments to do more and support those kinds of initiative. ”

Theo also spoke about his experience on the area and what he brought to Ethiopian journalists.

“I have worked for the last 15 years with many media professional around the world and to support independent media and support capacity building for journalists, producers and media managers. And specifically in Africa at peace tech lab we work local partners in south Sudan to produce peace building radio drama for youth and we also look at research on hate speech and online hate speech to help them understand what kind of terminology is being used online. And what sorts of trends online hate speeches can lead to, to violence on ground” The director of peace media said that the role of the media goes two ways.

“I think media stands at a the critical nexus, between being able to provide accountability for the government as the watch dog also for social accountability and being able to provide voice for citizens that might not otherwise have it and with that come responsibility. Of course media have to be professional and ethical in their coverage. Otherwise there audience the general public could be damaged by in accurate reporting. In general I think the media has a critical role and need to be supported.”

Various media personnel from different media outlets in Addis Ababa participated in the training. Report by Kibrom Worku.

Giving peacetech a chance

Last year, in Abu Dhabi, a group of young coders participated in an event its organizers called a Haqqathon. “Haqq” is the Arabic word for truth, an appropriate term for a gathering aimed at mobilizing Muslim programmers to fight Islamic extremism. The winner: a mobile app allowing young people to receive answers to questions from authoritative Muslim scholars in millennial-friendly, 60-second video clips, a far cry from the hour-long treatises typically presented by the experts. “This is a way for their teachings to get through to the Twitter generation," says Shahed Amanullah, co-founder of Affinis Labs, a Falls Church, Va.–based startup accelerator and organizer of the event.

Amanullah is one of a growing number of people world-wide, working in a fledgling field called peacetech. The particular solutions vary widely, from creating mobile apps that help young Muslims connect with scholars, to crowdsourcing data about checkpoints in Aleppo. But the overall movement, “aims to empower peacebuilders around the world through technology,” says Derek Caelin, who works with Washington, D.C.-based PeaceTech Lab.

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Death of a survey

Before the global development community is plunged into a collective moment of panic, let us clarify: the survey is not dead. Or as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” fans might say, not dead yet.

For many years, the survey has been a tool of both choice and necessity for development. This has been partially driven by the high cost and specialized technical expertise required for alternative forms of data collection and visualization.

The result is that decision-making based on big data and sentiment analysis has often been the purview of senior officials at major organizations — a top-down phenomenon we sometimes refer to as “Data for Superman.”

Yet the dynamics are changing. The arrival of mobile phones and social media in drought-, disease- and conflict-afflicted areas opens up a brand new window into human behavior. Now, technologists and health professionals such as the ones at HealthMap can track the global spread of diseases such as Ebola and Zika with up to 96 percent accuracy by automatically aggregating more than 200,000 data sources, including Twitter and news reports.

On the conflict prevention front, PeaceTech Lab has launched a tracking and reporting tool called the Open Situation Room Exchange, which provides country-specific visualizations of fragility by mapping everything from protests and violence against civilians, to online news and social media trends.

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5 Q's for Noel Dickover, Technical Director of Global Network Strategies at PeaceTech Lab

The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Noel Dickover, technical director of global network strategies at PeaceTech Lab, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) based in Washington, D.C. Dickover discussed the value of getting data into the hands of humanitarian workers on the ground, rather than just the leadership, as well as the importance of making this data usable in combating violent extremism.

Joshua New: PeaceTech Lab was created by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent federal institution, to use data and technology to help prevent and mitigate violent conflict. Why was there a need to improve how data is used in this space?

Noel Dickover: USIP created PeaceTech Lab to apply media, technology, and data in preventing violent conflict and promoting secure and peaceful societies around the world. Starting in 2008, the Lab’s work began as a Center of Innovation within USIP.  Now an independent non-profit organization, the Lab shares USIP’s physical space and benefits from the Institute’s 30-years of expertise in peacebuilding, while pioneering new ways to achieve the Lab’s own mission. The PeaceTech Lab provides tech, media, and data tools and training to peacebuilders and their allies to enable them to be more effective. We work in conflict zones to build and sustain networks of local technologists and peacebuilders interested in addressing violent conflict. The data focus allows us to engage in two-way information sharing relationships with these folks on the ground. From a situational awareness standpoint, the hope is to combine a big data view with a local network and local data to get far more granular in our understanding of the drivers of conflict, as well as the mitigation strategies that would be most effective in addressing the conflict.

Just as an example, the Lab is experimenting with ways to use big data to revolutionize how the needs assessment process is conducted for peacebuilding interventions. Currently, peacebuilding programs incorporate conflict analysis and needs assessment to determine how to prioritize resources and design the intervention. This involves a combination of desk research, outreach to partners, and on-the-ground data collection. While there are a bevy of new options to enable more efficient means of local data collection including in challenging environments, very few are exploring the possibilities of applying tools like social media listening and news analytics to build a comprehensive picture of the drivers of conflict before ever setting foot on the ground. These tools have the potential to support more targeted local data collection processes and can serve as valuable proxy indicators for ongoing monitoring and evaluation by measuring events and perceptions.

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Simple tools offer path out of conflict

The region is also chronically underdeveloped. “There’s not just no smartphones, there’s no electricity, no phone network and maybe one or two TVs in each village,” says Helena Puig Larrauri, cofounder of Build Up, which uses technology for peacebuilding.
This social enterprise was tasked by the US Agency for International Development with helping to improve relationships between Dinkas and Misseriya.
Its approach was simple. Build Up staff gave two mixed Misseriya-Dinka teams video equipment and helped them create films about the fragile peace in the South Sudanese market town of Majok Nyithiou. These films were shown last year at various settlements along the border.
“This was a way of using the local information ecosystem to send out a message of peace,” says Puig Larrauri. “For the individuals and communities directly involved in the project, collaboration in the filmmaking process became a path for Dinkas and Misseriya to discuss the conflict.” 

Keep it simple

 Each conflict is unique. People fight for varied reasons that often depend on highly localised economic, social and political factors. However, common themes run through many disputes, including a lack of communication and accurate information. In this context, the ongoing explosion in access to technology, the internet and mobile phones holds great promise for peacebuilding.

Click here to read full article.

Worth Magazine

Profits of Peace

When the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, commonly known as ISIS, rolled into Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, in June 2014, the Iraqi soldiers garrisoned there dropped their guns, discarded their uniforms and fled. ISIS warriors seized abandoned weapons, including reportedly six American-supplied Black Hawk Helicopters, and piles of cash stored in banks.

But in a way, it was hard to understand why it was taken in the first place. The Iraqi soldiers outnumbered the invaders 15 to one, yet they were routed; just 2,000 insurgents conquered a city of 1.5 million people. Why did the Iraqi soldiers abandon their posts? The simple explanation is they were afraid, and the reason they were afraid had a lot to do with the was ISIS uses modern media technology...

"The arrival in conflict areas of tech and data and social media gives you a window into the human dynamics-- the DNA of conflict," [PeaceTech Lab CEO Sheldon] Himelfarb explains. That combination of technology and data, he adds, provides "unprecedented early warning."

Click here to read full article. 

How Ag Big Data Can Provide the Early Warning Signals of Global Conflict

A recent NASA study found that the drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region, including conflict-affected countries such as Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, was the worst drought in over 900 years.

In fact, some studies have explored the connections between climate change, migration, and social instability...

It is in this context that the PeaceTech Lab started investigating climate change-related data sources that could help detect early warning signs of social unrest and conflict. And a new movement is now underway in the peacebuilding sector to start exploring this in conflict zones.

Click here to read full article.

How Data Can Help Counter Violent Extremism

A new initiative by Peace Tech Lab aims to provide anonymously available usable data that people in conflict zones can take advantage of to strategize and counter violent extremism on the ground.

"The ultimate goal is to help people in conflict zones to be able to find, analyze, visualize and use this conflict data in a real way to address strategy and tactics on the ground," Noel Dickover, Technical Director of Global Network Strategies at Peace Tech Lab, told FCW on April 7 during a two-day conference on countering violent extremism.

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Mumbai's Slum Tech Girls Turn To Crowdfunding To Resurrect Their Coding Dream From Ashes

Dharavi is a locality in Mumbai, india, which hosts one of the largest slums in the world. Estimates vary but it is said to have between 700,000 and 1 million inhabitants. In this informal settlement, which is home to a multitude of businesses of every kind, fires and other disasters are common.

The latest took place a couple of months ago.

On January 4th, a fire broke out in the Naya Nagar neighboorhood, burning in the process not only forty houses, clothes, furniture. It destroyed tablets, smartphones, laptops as well: the ‘weapons’ by which a number of teen girls, part of the Slum Innovaton Project, were trying to build a better future for themselves.

The group was born from the initiative of Nawneet Ranjan, a young film-maker who, after shooting four years ago a short documentary called Dharavi Diary, felt that just raising awareness about the difficult living conditions of the slum’s inhabitants was not enough.

Read more about PeaceTech Lab supported crowdfunding campaign.

PeaceTech Lab and Channels TV Sign Partnership Accord, Agree to Develop Hausa TV Initiative

PeaceTech Lab and Channels TV Sign Partnership Accord, Agree to Develop Hausa TV Initiative

Washington, DC – The PeaceTech Lab and Nigeria-based Channels TV have agreed to pursue joint initiatives using media in combination with data and technology to foster long-term peace and prosperity in northern Nigeria and the surrounding region. The agreement’s implementation will begin immediately with the joint development of Nigeria’s first, independent Hausa-language television news network to serve northern Nigeria.

“The PeaceTech Lab and Channels TV believe media can prompt and accelerate peacebuilding in an environment of intensified terrorist activity carried out by extremists who threaten Nigeria’s political stability and social compact with the Nigerian people,” said Sheldon Himelfarb, CEO of PeaceTech Lab. “The Lab welcomes Channels as a partner in our expanding media practice.”

John Momoh, founder and CEO of Channels TV, added, “Channels is very pleased to be associated with the PeaceTech Lab. We value its commitment and sophisticated approach to conflict resolution. We also welcome its development support as we seek to make our new Hausa service a sustainable business.”

The Huffington Post

It's official: Twitter is lifesaving.

A new study in the journal Science Advances, finds that social media can provide a potential path to safety and security during a crisis. Researchers looking back at Hurricane Sandy of 2012 detail how 52 million geographically pinpointed tweets gathered from before, during and after the hurricane offered data on where the weather event ultimately caused the most damage. Big data was useful for scientists in figuring out that the areas that experienced the most notable spike in Twitter activity were associated with areas where residents filed the most insurance claims and received the most individual assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency grants. Crunching numbers was made exponentially faster and easier by technology.

Social media and information technology are taking up vital positions in the tool box of preventive actions and post-crisis response approaches in all kinds of events, domestically, and overseas. During earthquakes, from Haiti to South Asia, social media has helped track down victims and locate survivors under deep rubble. Predictive analysis is also being used to determine where fault lines exist as well as weather patterns. Twitter and Facebook are using emergency alerts to warn citizens and connect those in need of assistance when danger strikes.

Imagine refugees stranded along dangerous routes in and out of countries. They rely on mobile phone, and increasingly social media, to get life-saving information on where it is safe to travel.

Victims of domestic violence are able to utilize apps and other technologies to report abuse without having to show up at a police station or clinic.

And those who live and work in isolated parts of the world, particularly in the agricultural sector, are using social media to glean insights into everything from climate to costs for products and services.

Health care is increasingly improved by access to pharmaceutical information online.

We often wring our hands at the intrusion of social media into our lives. But for those impacted by natural disasters, conflict, or crisis, that iPad, or keypad, cell phone or mobile app may become opportunities not disadvantages.

So celebrate technology. It may just save your life.

Tara Sonenshine is former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She serves on the board of directors of Peace Tech Lab which uses technology to prevent and respond to global conflict.



All they are saying is give peace tech a chance

As I learned at a conference on scaling peace technology at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC last month, the romantic notion that we can build a better world through data isn't over, after all.

Researchers hope that new technologies can detect the signs of conflicts earlier than ever before, but governments and non-governmental organizations are still figuring out how to move from theory to practice.

While our relationship to data has become more complicated since big data became a buzzword at the end of the last decade, hope endures that the wonders of our technology-infused age can be used to give policy makers more insight into the future and evidence to act in the present. Some government-funded researchsuggests that Twitter data can be used to predict when protests will erupt.

CEB In the Community

CEB In the Community

In the IT practice at CEB, we talk a great deal about how technology is changing the business environment: timelines are faster, available information is exponentially greater, and opportunities to connect and collaborate abound. But this phenomenon is not limited to the business world; technology has greatly changed how conflicts are waged, studied, and—most importantly—resolved or prevented.

An exciting organization working in this space of conflict resolution and technology is PeaceTech Lab, an off-shoot of the US Institute of Peace. PeaceTech Lab’s stated mission is to work at the intersection of technology, media, and data to help reduce violent conflict around the world. It’s a relatively new organization experiencing rapid growth. So when it approached CEB about partnering to scale its impact, CEB in the Community got right to work setting up the best pro bono project to align PeaceTech’s needs with CEB’s strengths.

Read the full article here.

National Democratic Institute

National Democratic Institute

This week, NDI launched its new Arabic-language e-learning and training, or“learn-engage” in English. Redesigned with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), this platform, which is also designed to be used on mobile phones, represents a new era in online engagement with and among democracy advocates in the Middle East and North Africa. The platform allows citizens to build their civic and political skills on topics such as campaign planning, elections, citizen participation, governance, and political party development.

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy

Can Your Playstation Stop A War?

Video games are being used for everything from helping find cures for HIV to losing weight. It's time to start using them to make peace.

Whether it is Hezbollah creating games to allow players to digitally participate in the 2006 war with Israel, Islamic State supporters modifying Grand Theft Auto, or even the U.S. military recruiting youth with America’s Army, games are already being employed to allow their audience to participate in a conflict. And if they can be harnessed to serve war, games should and must be used to power peace.

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Big data's big role in humanitarian aid

Mission-based organizations, including those helping the recent wave of Syrian refugees, are using big data to improve their response efforts. "Big data can be used to identify patterns and signatures associated with conflict — and those associated with peace — presenting huge opportunities for better-informed efforts to prevent violence and conflict."

Such work is still in the nascent stages, Noel Dickover says, but people are excited about its potential. "We have unprecedented amounts of data on human sentiment, and we know there's value there," he says. "The question is how to connect it."

Dickover is working on ways to do just that. One example is the Open Situation Room Exchange (OSRx) project, which aims to "empower greater collective impact in preventing or mitigating serious violent conflicts in particular arenas through collaboration and data-sharing."

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Challenge contests and prize competitions lead to better, cheaper technology

At Thursday's PeaceTech Summit in Washington, D.C., Ann Mei Chang, the executive director of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Global Development Lab, and Jason Mathey, the director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, said federal challenges and prize competitions often unlock innovations that are rare in traditional federal contracting - and cheaper.

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Can Tech And Data Science Prevent Violence In Conflict Zones?

Using the power of technology, media and data analysis to prevent tensions and conflicts  in some of the world’s most violent areas from escalating: That’s the mission of PeaceTech Lab.

Spun off from the government-funded United States Institute of Peace in 2014, the nonprofit teams up with local social entrepreneurs, as well as engineers, academics and others, to produce everything from data maps depicting attacks on journalists to surveys of skincare epidemics in refugee camps.

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