Among a number of initiatives New York based Digital Democracy is implemeting is a gender based violence centered program in Port-au-Prince in the runup to the Nov 28, 2010 Hatian elections.
Abby Goldberg writes:
“With the support of the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP), Dd came to Haiti to help some 50 women representing grassroots women’s groups in Port Au Prince work more effectively for greater political and social rights in the lead up to national elections on November 28th. This training followed up on two previous trainings this year, in April and July respectively, during which Dd staff worked with Haitian women to use mobile phones, video, and photography to increase their access to political power and rights. The focus of Dd’s work in Haiti has been to expand on the women’s understanding of and ability to use new communications and digital media tools to share their voice and report on their realities, this time, with a particular focus on Haitian democracy and the upcoming elections. As a part of this work, we sought to identify early warning indicators of election-related violence and how to report these findings to those who need to know. Women from the camps – the women we are working with – have the most incentive to combat violence and protect themselves and their loved ones. Women are the most attuned to, most affected by, and most motivated to stop violence in their communities. They also possess critical and unique information that can save lives.”
See full blog post here:
From their website:
“MobileActive.org’s vision is to help organizations make use of the most ubiquitous communications technology in the world with data, tools, and how-to resources; build a network of practitioners and technologists in a supportive community of practice; and highlight and explore the many innovative campaigns and projects — their lessons learned.
The global MobileActive community aggregates and builds upon the lessons learned from the pioneers in this field for the benefit of civil society organizations.
- Expand access to knowledge, ideas and experiences about the use of mobile technology to make the world a better place;
- Reduce learning costs for deploying mobile technology for civil society organizations;
- Accelerate the use of effective strategies and tactics of mobile use for NGOs;
- Provide a comprehensive platform for building partnerships, and for facilitating access to technology, know-how, and funding.”
The Center on Communication Leadership & Policy’s research team of Mark Latonero and Erin Kamler have returned from a fruitful exploratory trip for the Technology and Trafficking in Person project the Center is launching in Southeast Asia. According to a report prepared by the research team, an information sharing platform could provide significant assistance to agencies and organizations working to combat human trafficking in the Region. The full report of their findings can be downloaded here.
Latonero and Kamler are working with Senior Fellow Jeremy Curtin to move the project forward after a promising start.
From August 8 to August 15, the team met with numerous NGOs and government organizations in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
According to Latonero, “we focused on the Mekong Sub-Region (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Yunnan China and Burma), an area of critical needs in combating Trafficking and one in which possible technological solutions are just beginning to emerge. Our team centered the initial research trip on Thailand and Cambodia, listed as Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 2, respectively, in the Department of State’s 2010 TIP report. Both countries are source, transit and destination countries for men, women and children forced into labor and prostitution.”
The team conducted a needs and assets assessment of organizations working against human trafficking. CCLP proposes to focus on two interrelated immediate needs where technological solutions could have a significant impact: A regional cross-border SMS and voicemail enabled hotline; and a standardized victim identification and case management system to serve as an information sharing platform.
The TIP project was conceived out of a working group held in Washington, D.C. on June 3 in coordination with Alec Ross, Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation. Participants included Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, other U.S. Government representatives, leaders in the technology field, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and academics active on TIP issues. Latonero and Kamler’s trip was originally announced on the CCLP blog on August 2, 2010.
I recently saw the global music artist Peter Gabriel perform with an orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles (apparently the largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the U.S.). During an interlude, he spoke of a solar power plant in Portugal – perhaps like the one pictured below in Spain– which focuses thousands of mirrors to reflect concentrated sunlight towards the top of a tower to generate intense thermal energy (the process is called Concentrating Solar Power).
Using this image as a metaphor, he invited the thousands of fans in the audience to imagine if all of their cell phones and cameras were pointed towards a human rights issue/abuse. Imagine if millions of others were doing the same and those pictures and videos were connected across the globe via mobile devices and the Internet. Imagine how much this would change the world.
Gabriel was describing Witness, an organization he co-founded, which “uses video to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations.” According to its website, Witness is “an international human rights organization that provides training and support to local groups to use video in their human rights advocacy campaigns. Beyond providing video cameras and editing equipment, WITNESS is committed to facilitating exposure for our partners’ issues on a global scale. We help broker relationships with international media outlets, government officials, policymakers, activists, and the general public so that once a video is made, it can be used as a tool to advocate for change.”
Another project of Witness is the Hub. Described as a global platform for human rights and media and action, the Hub is “a participatory media site dedicated to human rights media. Anyone with a valid email address can be part of the community – you can upload footage, or simply watch what’s on the site. You can create groups and mobilize action around human rights abuses. The Hub provides people with the tools and the platform to use their video footage, photographs or audio recordings to campaign against human rights abuses.”
Throughout the concert in Hollywood, projectors displayed the image “Stand up for Human Rights, text WITNESS to 69866,” which allows people to sign up for an email lists by texting the short code. Peter Gabriel’s Witness project is a masterful combination of much of what this blog is about – he brings together global music (combining many cross-cultural melodies and rhythms to connects millions through a universal medium of expression), global celebrity (at an unprecedented historical peak due to global media), legacy media (video), and emerging technology (text/SMS/participatory media/digital networks)…all for Human Rights awareness and action.
Gabriel’s vision is powerful – empowering millions of individuals through information and communication technologies (ICTs) to advocate for global social change and human rights. Yet, as much as one might want to believe, we must put this in context as a techno-utopian vision of the future and compare it to historical and contemporary realities. This is not to say this vision cannot be realized. Judging from the talent on Witness’s board and staff they are in able hands to move forward. And communication technology is intimately connected to social change. Yet, whether or not this vision will come to pass depends on realities measured by awareness and impact. I would encourage those interested in supporting Gabriel’s vision to also employ empirical research to document, research and evaluate the impact of Witness and the Hub. The lessons learned (both successes and failures) are essential to understanding the extent of ICT effectiveness for human rights.
Led by Josh Nesbit, FrontlineSMS:Medic is a pioneer in SMS applications for the humanitarian/global health arena. FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, and the Department of State (et al.) set up the “4636″ number within hours of the Haitian earthquake such that victims could text in their emergencies and concerns, which were distributed to NGO’s, Southern Command, and the Coast Guard (see ReliefWeb’s article).
“Whether sending medical records, mapping health services in real-time, or helping isolated communities stay connected, FrontlineSMS:Medic uses text messages to coordinate health workers around the globe. With 1.2 million patients in Malawi and Uganda, we’re showing that text messages and cheap mobile phones can extend the reach of health workers on the front-lines of global health.”
Frontline SMS is the larger open source project:
“A lack of communication can be a major barrier for grassroots non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in developing countries. FrontlineSMS is the first text messaging system created exclusively with this problem in mind.
By leveraging basic tools already available to most NGOs — computers and mobile phones — FrontlineSMS enables instantaneous two-way communication on a large scale. It’s easy to implement, simple to operate, and best of all, the software is free. You just pay for the messages you send in the normal way.”
You need to know about Ushahidi – they are currently among the most important groups applying ICT in the human rights/humanitarian arena. “The Ushahidi Platform allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. Our goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response.”
Ushahidi was used in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake to receive text messages from those in need, create web-based visualization maps showing where those messages originated from, and filter those messages for the appropriate NGOs.
“Ushahidi is a free and open source project with developers hailing from Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Netherlands and the USA working on it.”
Ushahidi means “testimony” in Swahili. See http://www.ushahidi.com/