Context of the Research

Post-conflict societies, although they vary in most respects, have something in common: public institutions are considered weak, fragile and untrustworthy. This is true for policing institutions as well. Abuse of policing powers, corrupt practices, and impunity are characteristics people often ascribe to their authorities. Meanwhile, conflicts have regional and global ramifications. Citizens everywhere are endangered by problems arising from conflict, such as human and drug trafficking, and terrorism.

This project has tried to address this challenge by conducting integrated social and technical research on Community-based policing (COP) in post-conflict countries. With the aim that, the project will lead to a better understanding of police-community relations, as well as strategies to enable innovation in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions for enhancing these relations in post-conflict countries undergoing serious security and police reform.

In this context, the department of Informatics (IFI) at Universitetet i Oslo (UiO), joined the project in 2018 as the Technology Partner.

The research question for us is :

To what degree can information and communications technologies contribute to or detract from improved human security for vulnerable populations?

We have tried to empirically to answer this research question, by implementing ICT pilots in four countries. Pilot implementation in each research site includes – workshops, trainings, building technology solutions (where required), supporting already working systems, building guides and translation services

2.  Methodology

This section, presents details of our empirical engagement which has helped in inductively developing an understanding of these concepts and enable their conversations with available research and theoretical perspectives. The session has four main sections. First, describes our/UiO’s role in the research. In the second section, we discuss overall research design including the philosophical basis, action research approach, case study method, and the multi-level engagement. In the third section, we approach to data collection, which is followed by data analysis.

UiO role

  • ICT pilots have been our primary responsibility, right from conceptualization, to implementation, to design and development of technologies used in the pilots (except Kosovo).
  • UiO got local researchers on board in Kenya, Kosovo, Guatemala and Pakistan.
  • The Guatemala team has three anthropologists, while the Kenya team has social science researcher from peace studies, Pakistan researchers came from Gender studies and the Kosovo researcher from security studies. This mix of academic backgrounds, complemented by the informatics expertise from UiO, enabled the development of rich multi-disciplinary perspectives. All researchers have been UiO employees for the project period. Work package leader at UiO has participated in field work in each pilot country upto the end of February (before the pandemic lock downs began).
  • The UiO team (pilot country and Oslo researchers) have worked together with weekly scheduled online meetings since September 2019. We have together planned, discussed, prepared training material etc using the medium of our weekly meetings.

Overview of UiO Project team

Research Design

Key element of the research design has been:

  1. Research strategy of action research
    • Design principles
    • Research approach

Research strategy of action research

At UiO we believe that technologies do not come ready with a ‘perfect fit’ for a context; and these need to be cultivated and designed to fit the context, especially in the fragile post-conflict context of resource constrained environments. This process of cultivation and design is an ongoing, reflective and an iterative process, influenced by culture, social structures and user perceptions. Action research provides the tools and framework to carry out such cultivation through  ongoing processes and analyze a multidimensional world where it is very difficult to ascribe  cause and effect conditions (Wood-Harper 1984, p. 180).  Baskerville and Wood-Harper (1996) describe action research as the touchstone for the development of good practice, and since our research involved contributing to practices of system development and project management, action research was valuable to our approach. Further, the value of action research lies in providing a mechanism for understanding complex social events in the real world and the challenges in attempting to change them. Therefore, this mode of research requires researchers to be reflective as well as iterative in bringing about intended changes (Baskerville and Wood-Harper 1998).  By design, the researcher collaboratively participates in the change processes, actively trying to improve the stated problem by introducing change and observing the effects of these efforts (Baskerville 1999).

In this pilot, the action research efforts have had two fundamental bases. The first concerns at Department of Informatics, University of Oslo, where we have been exposed to theoretical ideas and approaches, and also how other researchers have addressed similar and different problems in other geographical and use contexts. Our other base is at pilot sites in the countries where the ICT pilots are being implemented. 

Our research is conducted within the HISP research program at UiO, which has pioneered the action research approach of “networks of action” (Braa et al 2004), rooted in the Scandinavian tradition of participatory design and workplace democracy. The networks of action approach works on the simple principle that we learn better in collectives (termed as networks) than in isolated settings, and action research is about creating and sustaining these collectives and enabling sharing across elements in this network. Specific actions identified by Braa et al. includes sharing of open source software and resource materials (such as training manuals), circulating of ideas and experiences across members in the network.

In each of the pilot country, we have tried to build a ‘local networks of action’

  1. In Kenya our research team engaged in building ‘community-based peace networks’ with members including – local police, security agencies, Red Cross, community based organisations, Mercy Corp, World Vision, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), NCIC, Red Cross, and Youth Bunge.
  2. In Guatemala the local network includes – Office for the Defense of Indigenous Women (DEMI), civil police, Human Rights Ombundsperson’s Office (PDH); the office of Attorney General’s Office (PGN) and regional Office for the Defence of Indigenous Women (DEMI) and Population Council.
  3. In Pakistan, we created a local network with Peshawar police, and NGOs working on gender based violence
  4. In Kosovo, the local network includes the Directorate of Police in Community and Prevention, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS) and local NGOs

In all these countries, the aim was to initiate a process of dialogue and trust between different ethnic groups and strengthen communities to understand early conflict warnings and build shared understanding on the nature and determinants of violence.  The further aim of the project was to develop similar “networks of action” across the different research sites so as to build a coherent community on ICT4COP globally, but time and COVID-19 related restrictions prevented this aim from being fully materialized.

The process of participatory design carried out in collectives was inspired by the networks of action approach. These principles also guided other areas of action such as capacity building, strengthening linkages of development teams.

In the table below, we summarize key characteristics of the action research carried out.


Design & Implementation Principles for ICT solutions

The key principles guiding our projects, included the following:

  • Embedded in social context and existing practices
  • Participatory design approach
  • Strengthening collaborative ‘networks of action’
  • Appropriate and frugal technologies
  • Scalable and sustainable design

Research Approach

Our intervention strategy based on research approach

A model of a research approach
Our intervention strategy based on research approach
A model of a research approach