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How technology is helping to reduce armed violence

A refugee in Aarsal shows footage of a bombing in Qarah, Syria, on his phone. (Nicole Tung/AOAV)

A refugee in Aarsal shows footage of a bombing in Qarah, Syria, on his phone. (Nicole Tung/AOAV)

A few weeks ago an AOAV colleague related a story which she heard during a recent trip to the Philippines. The Philippine government had negotiated a human rights protection agreement with a faction of the communist rebel groups. The agreement was supposed to serve as the first step towards peace negotiations. While drawing up this agreement, the government agreed that it would not arrest political leaders of the rebels so they could participate in negotiations. A list of leaders was produced and kept in a safe in the Netherlands.

The new government became suspicious that rebels were using negotiations as an excuse to stop members who were not on the list from being arrested. They demanded to see the list or they would break off negotiations. When they opened the safe, they found an old floppy disk inside with corrupted data.

Now there is no list. The rebels suggested drawing up a replacement, but the government does not trust them not to add names not on the original list. Peace talks have stopped, and no one knows how to fix the situation.

There is great potential for technology to help reduce the global burden of armed violence, but as this story illustrates not every development is necessarily a positive one.

AOAV’s new series of articles looks at the upsides and downsides of some of the technological developments being used to reduce armed violence.

“A Picture of Violence” examines some of the new forms of data visualisation which are being used to present data on armed violence. But are these just glossy images or do they have a real utility?

“Power to the People” looks at how technology is increasing the number of people who are able to report and analyse acts of armed violence. But are some conflicts where people do not have access to the internet and camera phones being neglected?

Finally, “Predicting Violence” considers efforts to predict where and when future violence will occur. Just how accurate and useful these forecasts are is another question.