USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, June 21 - 27, 2012

Table of Contents

Geeks for Good
In the summer of 2010, a team of self-confessed "socially conscious nerds" came together to create TechChange, a start-up to further the use technology for development. Two years later TechChange has taught more than 600 students in more than 70 countries through their online classroom. Its most popular course to date has been "Mobiles for International Development". Those interested in conflict resolution can dig deeper by enrolling in a special course designed around case studies from Libya and Syria.
See the full article (Economist, 6/27/12)
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New Technology Brings New Challenges for Keeping Sources Safe
Last summer, as part of its Surveillance Inc. series, the Wall Street Journal published a piece describing how, when Egyptian activists had raided the headquarters of Amn Al Dowla, the state security agency, they uncovered a secret memo about interception of Skype calls. For years -- assuming Skype to be safer than email -- many human rights organizations had promoted its use, suggesting to activists to use Skype "as much as possible."
See the full article (PBS, Jillian C. York, 6/27/12)
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TEDGlobal: App Offers Safety in a Riot
A smartphone application, enabling people in the middle of riots to find safety, has been shown off at the TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh. The system counts the [social networking] messages suggesting danger and those suggesting safety and "synthesises it into an easy-to-read interface". [Developer and TED Fellow Salvatore] Iaconesi runs AOS, a collective of engineers, artists and activists, designing citizen-centric applications. The app is currently only available for activist groups.
See the full article (BBC, Jane Wakefield, 6/27/12)
Click to read "Institute, National Academy of Engineering Explore New Applications of Science and Technology to Peacebuilding," a USIP News Feature by Andrew Robertson.
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Syria Activists Using U.S. Tech to Beat Curbs
U.S. technologies that may include a mobile phone "panic button" and an "internet suitcase" are being used by activists in Syria and other authoritarian countries to override government communications controls, a U.S. official said on Thursday. Alec Ross, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior adviser for innovation, said the United States was working on between 10 and 20 classified technologies that could be used by protesters and others facing communications curbs.
See the full article (Reuters, Mohammed Abbas, 6/21/12)
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The Folly of Kindle Diplomacy
Three years ago - back when I was still a carefree cyberutopian - I wrote a short essay on "high-tech diplomacy" for Newsweek. That essay - by far the glibbest text I've ever written - chided American diplomats for not exploiting the immense digital soft power that a company like Amazon had to offer. Well, the dissidents can start celebrating: Three years on, the U.S. State Department has finally announced an ambitious partnership with Amazon. Alas, the reality is far more complicated.
See the full article (Slate, Evgeny Morozov, 6/21/12)
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Stuxnet Cyberweapon Set to Stop Operating
At one second past midnight Sunday, the world's most powerful known cyber weapon, reportedly created by the US with Israeli support to clandestinely infiltrate and then wreck Iran's nuclear fuel enrichment program, will cease to operate. Deep inside Stuxnet's labyrinth of software code are a few lines that will soon order the program to stop working altogether in a pre-programmed, belated and ultimately unsuccessful bid to prevent it from being detected and deciphered.
See the full article (Christian Science Monitor, Mark Clayton, 6/23/12)
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Are Iranians Banned from Buying iPads?
A salesman at US Apple store refused to sell an iPad to an Iranian-American woman after overhearing her speak Farsi, provoking a debate about the limits of Western sanctions against Tehran's rulers. The US sanctions do not restrict sales of products to Iranians living in the US, but Apple could expose itself to legal liability if it sold consumer products in the US knowing they would be sent to Iran.
See the full article (BBC, Sam Farzaneh, 6/22/12)
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Did we miss anything?



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