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Waging Peace with Big Data and New Technologies

Chris Perry (International Peace Institute), Marie O'Reilly (International Peace Institute)
Data-Driven Business Beekman Parlor -- Sutton North
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If big data can be used to predict changes in consumer behavior, can it be used to predict whether rival factions will go to war? Big data analytics, data visualization, and new technologies help the private sector create value for shareholders and consumers. How can international actors, governments, and civil society work with the private sector to leverage these tools for the prevention of violence and conflict?

There has been incremental adoption of new technology and data science in managing violence and conflict. For instance, NGOs in Nairobi made use of crowdsourcing through SMS to track incidents of violence and fraud in the most recent Kenyan elections. Similar efforts in Sudan and South Sudan, however, have run into significant challenges presented by low-tech fragile environments. Further complicating matters, governments in the midst of popular uprisings have increasingly turned to shutting off internet access as a method to quell unrest, making many of the big data collection methods difficult.

Recent research by the International Peace Institute, supported by UNDP and USAID, developed a preliminary guide for applying big data and ICTs to conflict prevention. It throws the gauntlet for more effective partnerships between the public and private sectors—partnerships that must begin with a common understanding of both the challenges and possibilities.

In parallel, over the past year the International Peace Institute’s Data Lab has worked to demonstrate the uses of data science for conflict mapping and policy research. Join us as we examine some of the successes and failures of new technology in the field of peace and conflict and explore the prospects and challenges of adapting data science to policy research.

Photo of Chris Perry

Chris Perry

International Peace Institute

Chris joined IPI as a Policy Analyst with the Coping with Crisis team in July 2008. His current work deals with a range of international peace and security issues through the lens of multilateralism. His research focuses on applying data science to problems of sustainable development, conflict mediation and prevetion, and peacekeeping. His most recent work involved mining UN archival documents to create a database of UN Peacekeeping contributions over time, which can be used to test hypotheses regarding the motivations for contributing to UN peacekeeping missions.
Chris holds a master’s in public administration from the Daniel J. Evans School (University of Washington) with a concentration in international development policy and a BA in philosophy from the University of Washington.

Photo of Marie O'Reilly

Marie O'Reilly

International Peace Institute

Marie O’Reilly is the Associate Editor at the International Peace Institute (IPI) and a co-author of the IPI report New Technology and the Prevention of Violence and Conflict. Prior to joining IPI, Marie conducted research on the impact of natural resources on peacebuilding in South Sudan for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and developed conflict-prevention strategies targeting youth for the United Nations Development Programme in Lebanon. She has also worked in management consulting with Accenture, on human rights and video advocacy with Witness, and on event planning and communications at the Center for International Studies and Research (CERI) in Paris.

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