Terrible atrocities are a sobering part of daily life for people located in conflict zones. 67% of the world’s atrocities since 1945 have occurred in the context of an armed conflict, according to Alex J. Bellamy of the Stanley Foundation. Due to the high level of danger in these regions, obtaining reliable information needed to facilitate humanitarian intervention is often impossible. Humanity United and USAID have formed a partnership to seek out tech-enabled methods to better understand these crises.
These organizations are set to launch the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention on Wednesday, October 31, 2012. The goal of this effort is to develop concept papers and prototypes that can help the international community anticipate and respond to the awful atrocities that correlate with many of these intractable conflicts. Instead of limiting the opportunity of working on this problem to members of government and international law enforcement community, Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention has been crafted as an open source effort. “We are engaging a broader community and posing fundamental questions and challenges to new problem-solvers, including students, coders, tech firms, and other innovative thinkers,” said USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg in his organization’s Impact Blog. As an incentive, a cash prize of up to $10,000 will be awarded to the group that offers the best solutions.
One of the most difficult facets of this issue is addressing the roles that non-state actors, such as “multinational corporations, financial institutions or those who provide logistical support,” (Tech Challenge) play in causing atrocities. The Challenge’s organizers are hoping to obtain concept papers that suggest the use technology, such as mobile phone apps, to capture physical evidence of third-party involvement. Other open source concepts could demonstrate fresh strategies for leveraging social media platforms to expose the private sector’s involvement in financing atrocities through the trade of conflict minerals and other illicit goods. Any method of attacking this serious issue requires a strong grasp of data analysis.
Praescient has already demonstrated how advanced analytics can contribute to the fight against violations to human rights. Our efforts in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ exposé called Skin and Bone: the Shadowy Trade in Human Body Parts used network analysis and data manipulation to highlight the crisis of worldwide human tissue trafficking. Simliar methods can be applied to the complex challenge of anticipating, documenting, and preventing atrocities.