Update | Initiatives and work of ICT4Peace Foundation
ICT4Peace Foundation

Big Data & social media for crisis management: Lecture at ETH, Zurich

Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor to the ICT4Peace Foundation, delivered a public lecture on Big Data & social media for crisis management at Zurich’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – ETH, one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences in the world. The Foundation was invited by Prof. Dirk Helbing, Chair of Sociology, in particular of Modelling and Simulation. ICT4Peace is an active partner of Prof. Helbing’s FuturICT project.
Sanjana’s presentation looked at events on the ground from his home country, Sri Lanka, as well as, at the time of the presentation, content generation on and around the bombings at the Boston marathon, as key examples of how today information is produced at exponentially increasing rates, leading to new ethical, philosophical, scientific, journalistic, scientific, computational and other challenges, as well as opportunities.
The presentation looked at cities around the world, including from the African subcontinent, embracing big data and making decades of hitherto closed or hard to access information available, for free, in the public domain via the web, and relevant APIs and frameworks. The presentation looked at how even the UN, often perceived as extremely conservative and conventional, is today leading the way in flagging the value of big data and leading the development of platforms as well as political leadership to meaningfully use it in key operations. Through information visualisations, Sanjana demonstrated just how much a city’s contours and its population movements could be tracked. Examples were also shown from the world of data driven journalism – how big data, from its production to its consumption and open analysis, is changing the way the news is generated, distributed and engaged with.
The presentation focussed on the impact of big data in humanitarian aid and relief operations, including with the UN OCHA and other key humanitarian actors in the UN system. After going into how digital cartography today is no longer the exclusive domain of GIS experts, Sanjana also flagged key drivers from other domains – from algorithms in the online music industry that can sift through millions of tracks in less than a second to the gamification of disaster response – that will drive both the awareness of big data as well as progress in actually leveraging its potential to really make an impact in the efficiency and effectiveness of relief work.
To read the full article, click here.

Lectures at Humanitarian Logistics and Management course in Lugano

Since the first cohort of students over three years ago, the ICT4Peace Foundation has lectured at the Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Logistics and Management at the University of Lugano. Led by Sanjana Hattotuwa, the Foundation’s modules are broadly anchored around two key areas – one, the impact of new and social media on the web, Internet and via mobiles on humanitarian aid, situational awareness and more effective design and delivery of relief systems. Two, an overnight simulation exercise, based loosely around the Haiti earthquake, that takes students to around 30 of the leading humanitarian websites as well as new media platforms and portals and gets them to search for, compare and verify information on them, as well as collaborate and produce information using them.
This year, the Foundation introduced a new online collaborative mapping exercise to this simulation, based on the new Google Map Engine Lite.
Read the full article here

What Next? Building Confidence Measures for the Cyberspace

Report on ICT4Peace International Dialogue on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and International Cyber Security – ETH Zurich, 20 to 21 June 2013.
On 20 and 21 June 2013, the ICT4Peace Foundation hosted an international high-level expert workshop at ETH Zurich on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and International Cyber Security, to develop a better common understanding of practical CBM’s to be applied to the Cyberspace, based inter alia on concrete experiences of incidents and threats, that are relevant to build trust and rapid response systems to avoid potential conflict.

Read more details here

Guidance for Collaborating with Formal Humanitarian Organizations

As noted by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),
"This guidance is intended for Volunteer and Technical Communities (V&TCs) and tech groups that have a desire to collaborate with Formal Humanitarian Organizations. We hope that it best fits the needs of V&TCs and tech groups that currently seek practical advice on how to develop projects with formal humanitarian organizations or how to further strengthen pre-existing collaborative relationships. We hope that this Guidance helps V&TCs better understand the modus operandi of humanitarian organizations so that they may better formulate requests for partnerships and maximize the benefits of collaborative relationships."
Also read an interview with Sanjana Hattotuwa, from ICT4Peace Foundation, on ‘Guidance for Collaboration with Formal Humanitarian Organizations’. This interview was conducted on June 11, 2013 by Annie P. Waldman. 

Access the content here

Presentation at OpenGov Hub on Big Data

Sanjana Hattotuwa from the ICT4Peace Foundation was invited to deliver a brown-bag presentation at the OpenGov Hub in Washington DC in late April. His presentation was on Big Data and Social Media for Crisis Management.
The presentation was anchored to a rights and activist perspective, and looked at how big data was shaping humanitarian and indeed, peacekeeping and peacebuilding responses even if governments and other large institutions were apathetic or directly opposed to the free flow of information in public domains. Connecting activist marches in Sri Lanka with the Boston Marathon bombings, the presentation looked at how open data was changing how citizens interacted with (local) government in cities, how what is now called a data exhaust can provide cartographically accurate representations of big cities merely by plotting updates generated from mobile app based location services, and how even a mood of a community can be determined by semantic analysis of their public updates.

Read more here

ICT4Peace, Big Data and Crisismapping magazines on Flipboard

The ICT4Peace Foundation is pleased to announce three new curated magazines on the visually compelling Flipboard, dealing with Big Data, crisismapping and ICTs for peacebuilding. Flipboard is one of the most beautifully crafted and commonly used web content aggregators and readers for iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android, Kindle Fire and Nook. These three magazines, curated by the Foundation’s Special Advisor and TED Fellow Alumn Sanjana Hattotuwa, will feature some of the best web content around Big Data, seen from a human rights, peacebuilding perspective and crisis mapping. Additionally, the Flipboard magazine of ICT4Peace will feature updates from around the world on the use of Information and Communications Technologies to support all aspects of peacebuilding and peacekeeping.
We hope you enjoy reading these curated magazines.

Read more and subscribe here

Consultation on “Protection in violent situations – standards for managing sensitive information”

How does the public sharing of sensitive information affect the risks faced by civilian populations and humanitarian operations? It should always be clear what the benefits of going public are. With ICTs, we should be more sensitive to risk because of the added context provided by triangulation. There should be a distinction between aggregation of information and information that can put people at risk. If information is publicly shared, it needs to be adjusted temporarily and spatially, which also avoids the issue of providing information to military. Regular risk assessments for the system needed a feedback mechanism. To minimize risks, some degree of uncertainty in the data has to be accepted. There should be an obligation to share information that, if withheld, can do harm (mine locations), and by sharing, can benefit. Before publishing sensitive information, actors should look at the context of the country.
Read the full article here.

Confidence Building in Cyberspace: Constructive work by UN experts

ICT4Peace experts have called since 2004 for more robust international cooperation among states against threats resulting from the malicious use of ICTs to reduce risk and enhance security and to promote a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative ICT environment. ICT4Peace called for norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour by States, as well as voluntary measures to increase transparency, confidence and trust among them. And they must do so in cooperation with the private sector and civil society. ICT4Peace experts have been involved in or supported the work at the OSCE to develop Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) for the Cyberspace or the “UN Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security“ (UN GGE) in New York. Regarding CBMs for the Cyberspace, ICT4Peace recently held a workshop at ETH Zurich, the report of which is here.
For more details, click here

UN OCHA thanks ICT4Peace Foundation

In late July 2013, Mark Dalton, the Chief of UN OCHA’s Information Services Branch officially wrote to the ICT4Peace Foundation to thank the Foundation’s support and intellectual input, over many years, towards the strengthening of the humanitarian community, including the V&TC community.

Read the full letter here.

The dramatic rise of cyber-attacks: What are Governments doing about it?

The world is facing a new challenge that is here to stay: an invasive, multi-pronged and multi-layered threat, a modern day arms race without visible weapons or actors, characterized by an escalating number of attacks both on and off the radar. The stability of our networked global system and the proper functioning of our countries, cities and daily activities, rely on the Internet. Critical infrastructure – including transport, transport security, nuclear power plants, electricity, communication networks, oil pipelines, and financial institutions – has become a clear target for cyber attacks, which could have devastating consequences for humankind.

Read more and download the report from here

UNESCO honours member of ICT4Peace Foundation board

As reported on the UNESCO website, on the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day in 2013, UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova presented a medal to ICT4Peace Foundation board member Mr. Alain Modoux in recognition of his pivotal role in the establishment of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).
For 20 years, May 3 has been a day when the world celebrates freedom of expression and stands together for its protection. This is the spirit of the 1991 Declaration of Windhoek, whose anniversary the United Nations General Assembly chose for World Press Freedom Day. UNESCO was instrumental in framing the Windhoek Declaration and works today to promote freedom of expression across the world.

Read more here

Report of Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) Retreat 2013

Led by the UN’s Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) and organised by the ICT4Peace Foundation, the 2013 Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) meeting was held on 2nd and 3rd May in Glen Cove, New York. Representatives from UNOCC, UNITAR, UNDP BCPR, UNICEF, OHCHR, OICT, OCHA, DFS/DPKO, UNHCR and WFP participated along with, on the second day, representatives from Google Crisis Response, Human Rights Watch, Sahana Software Foundation, Standby Volunteer Task Force, World Bank OpenDRI. Representatives from the New Media Task Force were invited but due to unavoidable circumstances, could not attend.
It was the best-attended CiMAG retreat thus far, with over 30 participants from the UN and the crisismapping community participating over the two days. The retreat also had the most substantive discussions around information sharing as well as data architecture, a key component of the Crisis Information Management (CiM) strategy of any CiMAG retreat held to date.

Read more here
Copyright © 2013 ICT4Peace Foundation, All rights reserved.


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Download a report on the use of Information and Communications Technologies for peacebuilding (ICT4Peace), with a Preface by Kofi A. Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations here. An updated version of this report, with critical analysis on current policies and practices of ICTs in peacebuilding and crises was published in early 2011. Published in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and GeorgiaTech, Peacebuilding in the Information Age: Sifting Hype from Reality can be read here

ICT4Peace took root with pioneering research on the role of ICTs in preventing, responding to and recovering from conflict in 2003 and lead to the adoption of Paragraph 36 by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in 2005 which recognises “...the potential of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict which, inter alia, negatively affects achieving development goals. ICTs can be used for identifying conflict situations through early-warning systems preventing conflicts, promoting their peaceful resolution, supporting humanitarian action, including protection of civilians in armed conflicts, facilitating peacekeeping missions, and assisting post conflict peace-building and reconstruction".
The ICT4Peace Foundation works to promote the practical realisation of Paragraph 36 and looks at the role of ICT in crisis management, covering aspects of early warning and conflict prevention, peace mediation, peacekeeping, peace-building as well as natural disaster management and humanitarian operations.