Positive role of ICTs in mitigating conflict conditions
ICTs can play a positive enabling role in mitigating conditions of conflict, but they must be integrated deeply within locally existing social-institutional cultural structures
- Kenya – embedded in community based “peace networks”
- Guatemala – within different institutions engaged in gender-based violence
- Kosovo – within the community policing department
Key learning: ICTs on their own (for example, a standalone App) can do nothing, unless and until they become an integrated and an integral component of a larger heterogeneous socio-technical- institutional network collectively engaged in peace building efforts.
ICTs can play multiple enabling roles
ICTs can play different enabling roles in varying contexts for conflict mitigation, such as:
- Enhance anonymity of citizens, which gives them build confidence to report on potential conflict situations (example, Kenya)
- Information provides the glue to link and share information across different (and conflicting) groups, helping to build shared understanding of the issues and how they may be resolved (example, Kenya)
- Creates visibility of information of the conflict situation that promotes accountability of decision makers to take peace building actions (example, Kenya)
- Integration of relevant information in one point, helps enabling initiating conversations/dialogues between multiple entities engaged in peace building efforts, providing a basis for creating and monitoring coordinated actions (example, Guatemala)
- Use of ICTs by the state for the perceived good of citizens can help to build trust of citizens towards the state, a key ingredient for peace building efforts (eg. Kosovo)
Key learning: Need to understand what specific roles ICTs can play in peace building efforts in different socio-institutional contexts, and design and implement them accordingly.
1.3. Making ICTs work is an intensive, long-term effort
Contexts of conflicts are fragile, and intensive and continuous efforts are needed to make ICTs work in these settings:
- Long-term efforts (of many years) rather than short and adhoc project-based initiatives are needed for ICTs to be effective (eg: Kenya, dedicated efforts ongoing over a decade).
- There needs to be dedicated support group to ensure ICTs are working and continuously being enhanced and adapted to changing informational needs (eg. Kenya)
- It is important to make use of current and state of art developments in ICTs, to help provide required enabling functionalities for supporting peace building efforts (eg: Android use in Kosovo and visualization dashboards in Guatemala)
- To address key challenges of sustainability and scalability of the ICT application, dedicated institutional ownership and supporting resources are required.
Key learning: ICTs don’t work on their own, dedicated support structures, institutional ownership and adequate financial and technical resources need to be provisioned.
Non-traditional research methods
Researching ICTs in conflict settings requires research methods which are unique and different from traditional settings, such as:
- They must be driven by local actors who have a stake in creating conditions of peace (example, Kenya)
- Bringing in the victims of violence into the peace building efforts provides for building sensitive and grounded understanding of the issues (example, the use of “life story” methodology in Guatemala)
- Building anthropologically grounded understandings of the issues are important to get into the “why” of conflicts (example, use of the “life story” methods in Guatemala)
- Need for strongly defined ethical frameworks to ensure the voices of the locals are heard and meaningfully acted upon (example, Guatemala and Kenya)
Key learning: Need to build anthropologically informed understandings of the research issues within strong ethical frameworks of conducting research.