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.
The genuine connection we shared through Shared Studio’s patented portal technology is an example of peace technology, and its power to build human networks of trust across geographical and cultural boundaries.
This kind of innovation was at the heart of the PeaceTech Summit. On May 8th and 9th, the two-day event brought together tech titans, national security experts, conflict mediators, and social entrepreneurs to explore how technology can transform peacebuilding outcomes for the better.
Timothy Philips, panelist, neuroscientist, and founder of Beyond Conflict, encouraged us to remember that “humans are not rational beings, but rather emotional beings who can only think rationally when they feel that they are safe and understood”. Shared Studios demonstrated how entrepreneurs can help us to jump the hurdle of collective blame, and to see those belonging to disparate cultures as individuals rather than as a collective.
In addition to facilitating intercultural exchange, entrepreneurs that were highlighted also use technology to radically improve the capacity and accountability of private, public, and non-profit actors. As the event’s self-designated “blockchain hype person”, Alex Kostura of Consensys, shared stories of how blockchain frameworks keep blood diamonds from entering the supply chain, and encourage ethically-sourced seafood by tracing and recording its journey from ocean to table.
Moreover, two graduates of C5’s PeaceTech Accelerator, Mark Labs and the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), shared how they use AWS’s cloud computing services to scale their impact globally. Mark Labs leverages the platform to measure the impact of philanthropic giving and to inform more strategic and effective investment into communities around the globe. ICMEC also uses the power of the cloud to search for missing childing more efficiently online using facial recognition and artificial intelligence.
Whether you treat technology with healthy skepticism, or guarded optimism, these examples energize fresh approaches to conflict resolution. For further innovations to thrive, collaboration between sectors is critical. C5 Accelerate’s mission echoes the PeaceTech Summit’s call to action, which reminds us that it is our collective responsibility to break down silos to elevate and amplify technology’s potential for good.