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Andrew H Campbell of Bellevue, NE explains how technology has affected international peace

The impact of technology on peace should not be overstated or exaggerated.

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Image: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

For decades, information and communication technology (ICT) has been helping countries take their warfare to the next level. In a time where postcards have evolved to Tweets, Facebook and WhatsApp messages to the use of drones, phones, and satellites, these technologies have proven to be efficient tools in winning battles and exposing the vulnerable spots of the enemy. But now these same tools are being deployed to spread peace and calm tensions throughout the world.

Dr. Andrew H Campbell of Bellevue, Nebraska, is a public speaker at peacebuilding and leadership conferences across the globe. “It is heartening to see,” he says, “ICTs sending us data that we can effectively use to predict conflicts and work on defusing volatile situations before they escalate.”

The use of technological platforms like social media, logistical assets, and cyberspace assets are being used more frequently by local peacebuilders to build communication networks that facilitate pathways toward peace and stability. Basically, technology is a peacebuilders strategic enabler that brings the conflictual parties together to counteract disparaging violent narratives and enhance local peacebuilding capacity toward conflict resolution and reconciliation.

But it’s not just information collected from areas of conflict that help peacebuilders, technology is being used in many ways to build trust and empathy between warring sides and ease tension.

Early Warning

Across the world, civil wars and tensions between neighboring countries have been affecting the global economy on a large scale. The data coming from the Global Peace Index 2019 paints a bleak picture. According to the report, the cost of war and violence was over $14 trillion in 2018 alone, equivalent to approximately 11% of the world’s economic activity. This included military spending, security costs, and crime-related damages.

Dr. Campbell believes that technology can play a major role in stemming from this draining of the country’s resources. In fact, the technological advancements of weaponry and war has resulted in some of history’s darkest chapters as well as spawned social discourse. To illustrate, the technological communication by a single user organized the anti-government uprising and armed rebellions of the Arab Spring 2011 to demand political reforms and social justice across the Middle East. 

“We can now get a clear picture of what’s happening in an area of conflict through text messages from the people on the ground as well as social media, streaming videos and satellite imagery”, says Dr. Campbell. This information is then used to create models that computers analyze to find patterns and predict conflicts. Early warnings are crucial in providing effective interventions that deescalate conflicts and put the tension to rest. 

ICT for Peacebuilding

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous throughout the world. It is estimated that there are over 6.5 billion phone users worldwide. That’s practically a phone for every living person. Internet usage has also seen a dramatic increase over the past few years with 66 percent of new users coming from developing countries. 

Andrew H Campbell of Bellevue, NE argues that currently, there is limited research on the role and effects information and communication technological innovations have on peace development. Thus, how to identify technological advancement and effectively employ such technologies as part of a peacebuilding strategy needs to be investigated further.

That said, arguments can be made that the employment of information and communication technology is a strategic enabler for peace organizational decision-makers to bring civil society actors, affected populations and marginalized groups together and discuss pathways for conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities.  

“What all of this means,” says Andrew H Campbell Bellevue, NE, “to peacekeeping efforts everywhere, is that we can now get firsthand information that is both accurate and in real time about rising tensions almost anywhere in the world.” It’s something the UN and its peacekeeping programs have been trying to take full advantage of. Thanks to the free text message service Uwiano platform, for example, people everywhere have the means to communicate any threats of violence they encounter. 

But it’s not just the UN who’s using ICTs for peace efforts. NGOs and individual efforts are also harnessing technology to expose corruption and the horrors of civil war in war-torn countries. Case in point, George Clooney’s foundation has been using satellite imagery to track and raise awareness about the mass genocide and money laundering operations in South Sudan.

Information to Defuse Tensions

Dr. Campbell also points out another advantage of technology in peacebuilding that has to do with spreading calm and defusing tension. “We all know that rumors and lack of transparency are fertile grounds for tensions and conflicts.” Given the right conditions, a small rumor can start a civil war that claims thousands of victims.

To combat this, social media is often used by activist groups and NGOs to share accurate and fact-checked information among people online. In addition, internet forums, as well as radio talk shows, give people an alternative way to dispel hate speech and violence-inciting rhetoric. When people see that they have a voice, they usually turn away from violence and engage in constructive discussions that build bridges of peace among communities.

Future Outlook

Online forums and mobile phone text messages have been quite effective in peacebuilding operations, but they are by no means the most advanced tools technology has to offer. Every day more and more digital innovations come out that make an impact. 

Andrew H Campbell Bellevue NE believes that there’s a promising future for virtual reality, drones, and video games to be used as a means to fight conflict. “Seeing how widespread video games and phone apps are,” he says, “this is a golden opportunity to utilize these venues to manage conflicts and create channels of dialogue within the society and across the borders. With online games, players cross geographical boundaries and communicate and interact with others to promote trust, nurture compassion, and share the spirit of peace.” 

Thus, peace leaders must focus more on assessing the strategic progress of operationalizing ICT tools in communicating conflict prevention strategies and human service delivery systems among key stakeholders. In moving forward this is important as peace leaders seek a unity of purpose across the full spectrum of peace development. Essentially, the impact of technology on peace should not be overstated or exaggerated.

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