The Build Peace Database is developed and curated by the Build Peace team in order to generate insights and guide further research into the use of technology for peacebuilding. The hope is also to provide a space where people can share thoughts and best practice alongside these insights. You can find out more about our methodology here.
There are to date 126 projects in the Database, mostly collected around the Build Peace conferences in 2014 and 2015, from speakers presentations, competitions, mentions in talks, etc. A small number of projects, around 20, were crowdsourced at the end of 2013 and early 2014, again linked to the Build Peace network.
The visualisations and insights the database provides are therefore limited to this sample, which is why we need as much input from the community as possible, and would encourage anyone to enter their project to the Database and contribute to cataloguing the use of technologies for peacebuilding.
With the above caveats in mind, there are a few interesting facts that have emerged from the data.
Online v offline
89.7% of the projects featured in the Database require an internet connection. The remaining 10.3% are offline projects that nevertheless have an online element or presence. For example Masterpeace encourages the development of clubs globally. Clubs do not require an internet connection, but Masterpeace’s central tool is its collaborative platform or website. On the other hand, the fact that Puntland Development and Research Center’s Mobile Audio Visual Unit does not require an internet connection is intentional in order to operate in areas that do not yet benefit from such connectivity or a reliable infrastructure. A final type of projects that do not rely on the internet are TV shows or series such as ‘Dream and Achieve Afghanistan‘.
Custom or existing tech?
Another interesting question is whether tech-enabled peacebuilding projects use custom-made technologies or whether they rely on adapting existing ones. So far 49% of the projects use custom-made software, so roughly half of the current sample ,whereas the other half adapts existing platforms. ‘Social media’ platforms represent 35% of existing software used, with the largest share in that category. ‘Digital games’ and ‘online maps’ features among the most often custom-made technology, representing 38% and 10% respectively of that category. As mentioned above it is too early to generalise conclusions as the sample is currently too limited, but this kind of information could be incredibly useful to first reflect on, and then inform research or funding focus for the future. What are the implications of using existing vs custom technologies for peacebuilding purposes – in terms of ethics (privacy, security, accountability) and sustainability?
Moreover the Database allows us to explore whether projects tend to use either custom or existing technologies depending on the peacebuilding objectives, as shown in this table. This might be useful for both researchers or practitioners looking to find or share best practice or lessons learnt.
Functions of technology
One the more novel elements developed in the Build Peace database is a framework including ‘functions of technology’. This is based on practical and academic work looking into the roles of technology for peacebuilding. It allows to both unpack the idea of technologies and more easily compare a wide range of different types of technologies.
The Build Peace Database starts with a four-fold functional framework of technology functions: data – communication – networking and mobilisation. These are in turn subdivided (see more info here). The function of technology most represented in the Database is ‘Mobilisation – engagement’, with 50% of the projects using technology at least for that purpose. The second most popular function of technology among the projects featured in the Database is to develop a new or alternative version of events prevalent in a particular context (40%), followed by the provision of an alternative to the physical, geographical space inhabited by those experiencing conflict, or those who might have a stake in the conflict (30%).
A tentative conclusion
The data presented so far seems to indicate that the practice of using technologies for peacebuilding is heavily reliant on information and communication technologies (ICTs), making use of the internet’s connectivity and the wealth of available applications to connect more people than ever before and engage them in peacebuilding practices, share alternative narratives of peace and conflict and provide an alternative space for contact or collaboration. This tends to support the intuitions of many in the field of the empowering potential of new technologies for local populations.
While the Database has a sample that is limited to the community around the Build Peace Conference, it represents a first attempt at gathering systematic information on projects that use technology for peacebuilding. Over the next few months we will continue to interrogate the data for new insights, which we hope to publish regularly.
We will be expanding the number of projects in the Database, through crowdsourcing or desk research, with the view to publishing a more thorough report in early 2016. Your feedback and project information would be welcome in making this more relevant to the community as a whole.