USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, May 10 - 16, 2012

Table of Contents

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Why the World Isn't Freaking Out About Iran's Plasma-Powered Spy Sat
Next Wednesday, Iran will try to launch an experimental reconnaissance satellite into orbit - just as international negotiators gather in Baghdad for talks about Tehran's nuclear program. The timing couldn't be more inflammatory, and rogue state satellite launches are usually considered to be missile tests in drag. So why isn't the world throwing itself into a tizzy about the mission?
See the full article (Wired, Noah Shachtman, 5/16/12)
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Robot Soldiers Will Be a Reality -- And a Threat
Using brain-machine interface technologies [can] give the remote pilot instantaneous control of the drone through his or her thoughts alone. The technology is not science fiction: Brain-machine interface systems are already being used to help patients with paralytic conditions interact with their environments, like controlling a cursor on a computer screen. Some security analysts already worry that remote control unacceptably lowers the bar for a technologically superior force to engage in conflict.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Jonathan D. Moreno, 5/14/12)
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Cash, and Time, Runs Out for Afghanistan's Wi-Fi City
[The "JLink" DIY Wi-Fi network] came to Afghanistan in the hope of helping, nonviolently, to rehabilitate a country fractured by decades of war. [But] JLink is not something the Taliban destroyed. Its impending collapse illustrates what happens when grand ambitions lead to grand achievements that ultimately prove unsustainable - perhaps because they proceeded from unstable, utopian premises. And like the war itself, the group that created JLink is out of time to salvage its project.
See the full article (Wired, Spencer Ackerman, 5/14/12)
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Pentagon to Expand Cybersecurity Program for Defense Contractors
The Pentagon is expanding and making permanent a trial program that teams the government with Internet service providers to protect defense firms' computer networks against data theft by foreign adversaries. It is part of a larger effort to broaden the sharing of classified and unclassified cyberthreat data between the government and industry in what Defense Department officials say is a promising collaboration between the public and private sectors.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, 5/11/12)
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Guest Post: ICT, Africa, and the 90/10 Rule
Participants [at a SAIS conference] explored the potential of ICT to improve governance in Africa by promoting dissent, organizing opposition, enabling large groups to express shared concerns, and reducing communication transaction costs; as well as improving government effectiveness by streamlining administrative functions (bureaucratic listservs or mobile courts for example), opening channels of communication with constituents, and improving service delivery. [But] it is easy to get caught up in the ICT component of a project and allow it to overshadow the desired outcomes.
See the full article (Council on Foreign Relations, Asch Harwood, 5/10/12)
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How FrontlineSMS Users Could Monitor Kenya's 2013 Elections
The FrontlineSMS meet-up held in Nairobi at the beginning of April brought together a number of organizations, individuals and experts who focus their work on elections and conflict resolution-related issues -- and who all have an interest in the potential use of FrontlineSMS for monitoring Kenya's upcoming 2013 elections. It's true that the most exciting breakthroughs in our time will not occur because of technology as such, but because of our expanding ability to support each other.
See the full article (PBS, Florence Scialom, 5/10/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "The End of Civil Wars: How to Make Peace Stick" on May 22 at 2:00pm.
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which includes a special section on Internet and social media.

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