Over the past year, I’ve had the honor to be part of the team at USAID implementing the President’s vision of preventing and responding to mass atrocities, including through my service on the White House’s Atrocity Prevention Board. I have deep personal connections to the issue of atrocity prevention, having worked throughout my career on countries in the midst of conflict where such atrocities have occurred, from Rwanda to Angola to Libya.
Knowing all too well the challenges – internal and external – that a government faces as it attempts to prevent or disrupt these horrific events, I have steered our team at USAID toward expanding the tools available to us and training and equipping our staff to improve our vigilance and response. In this regard, much more can be done to take advantage of developments in technology. So many more technologies are available to us today than existed during the Rwanda genocide, and we must harness them to build new capabilities in early warning, remote sensing, safe evidence collection, and elsewhere.
This awareness prompted a conversation that culminates with the contest launch of the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention on October 31. This exciting effort, co-sponsored by USAID and Humanity United, builds on our new commitment to open source development. Instead of just drawing on the skill and imagination of our staff, we are engaging a broader community and posing fundamental questions and challenges to new problem-solvers, including students, coders, tech firms, and other innovative thinkers.
The challenges we seek to address through the Tech Challenges are at the heart of barriers we face in ending the cycle of violence in fragile countries. What new tools or mobile apps can help activists safely document the physical evidence needed to hold abusers accountable and/or support transitional justice processes long after the violence abates? How can new social media platforms and other tools build pressure on governments to respond, and on the private sector to address the enabling role served by resources generated from conflict minerals and other products? How can we better monitor hate speech that is often a precursor and instigator of violence? These are tough questions, but we need answers, fresh perspectives and new ideas.
Please visit the site, share the trailer via social media and forward this to friends, colleagues, or classmates who might help. Our partner Humanity United will be hosting a Twitter Q&A on Thursday, November 1st at 2 p.m. EST via @HUTweets and #genprevtech to answer your questions about the Tech Challenge.
We look forward to seeing the new ideas you identify in this Tech Challenge, and we’re excited about the broader range of possibilities that open source development will yield.
*Updated to reflect change in event date*