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Peacebuilding in the Information Age: Sifting Hype from Reality

The Berkman Center is pleased to join the ICT4Peace Foundation and Georgia Tech in announcing a new collection of essays, Peacebuilding in the Information Age: Sifting Hype from Reality, the first in a series of publications examining information and communication technologies (ICTs) in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and crisis response.

The full announcement from the ICT4Peace Foundation follows. "Peacebuilding in the Information Age: Sifting Hype from Reality" can be downloaded via ICT4Peace.

The Berkman Center is enthusiastic about our collaboration with ICT4Peace and Georgia Tech on this series of papers. There is tremendous excitement over the promise of ICTs in grave and pivotal situations, but the practical and actual characteristics of ICTs in peacebuilding contexts are often unclear. The constellation of contributing authors and organizations -- encompassing policymakers, scholars, innovators and practitioners -- offers a rich, sober and skeptical investigation of the issues. Through this shared exploration, we hope to develop understandings that help ICTs to reach their potential for positive impact.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


Peacebuilding in the Information Age: Sifting Hype from Reality

11.1.11, Switzerland: The ICT4Peace Foundation, in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and GeorgiaTech, is pleased to release, on the occasion of the anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the first in a series of papers looking at the increasingly important role of information and communication technology (ICT) in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and crisis response.

Unlike other papers on innovative technologies (crowdsourcing, social networking etc) dealing with crisis response, reconstruction and humanitarian aid, this collection of thought provoking pieces by esteemed writers, including former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Martti Athisaari and a younger generation of cutting edge practitioners and scholars in this fast moving space, aims to encourage meaningful debate and action on how to solve the serious challenges that still exist in the effective use of ICTs.

“There has been solid progress in improving the international community’s response to crises through the effective use of innovative ICTs in crisis information management. However, there is still a long road ahead. In particular, we need to focus on how to extract and use verified information from crowdsourced data. The right mechanisms and tools for effective and coordinated crisis information management still need to be developed and refined.” Daniel Stauffacher, Co-Founder and Chairman, ICT4Peace Foundation.

Going beyond the current debate and positive hype about ICTs, this paper probes difficult questions and provides concrete recommendations concerning:

  • the effectiveness of current systems of crisis information management;
  • the need for a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of the use of ICTs in crisis response by the academic community;
  • the need for better coordinative mechanisms amongst the key players, including the UN and its various agencies;
  • the humanitarian responsibility of various actors, in particular new players such as crowdsourcing providers and social media;
  • the serious challenges that still need to be overcome in terms of underlying political, hierarchical and traditional resistance to information-sharing amongst diverse organizations;
  • the negative potential of ICTs in compromising the security of persons at risk in conflict situations;
  • the lessons learned from the earthquake in Haiti on the use of new ICTs in disaster response situations and,
  • the big picture of what this shift to an ICT-focused approach really means for existing humanitarian response systems.

Download the report here [PDF].