Digital media in conflict-prone societies have the potential to foster dialogue and peace or to fuel hate speech and violence. The rapid spread of digital-based communications and information networks is likely to have an effect on 21st-century wars, which increasingly center on internal conflict, disputed borders of new states, and separatist movements. At the same time, some of the most positive and innovative media projects are coming out of the developing world as people adopt networks and software applications for their own ends. Ushahidi, for example, is a Web site that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya that followed the 2007 elections. It is currently expanding to create a global platform where anyone can gather reports of conflict–by mobile phone, e-mail, or the Internet–and map the crisis. Ivan Sigal, the author of a forthcoming report called Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies, examined the theoretical background of these issues. He was followed by Erik Hersman, the founder of Ushahidi.
Author, Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies
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Center for International Media Assistance
About the Panelists
Ivan Sigal is the executive director of Global Voices, a nonprofit online global citizens’ media initiative. Previously, as a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Sigal focused on how increased media and information access and participation using new technologies affect conflict-prone areas. He spent over ten years working in media development in the former Soviet Union and Asia, supporting and training journalists and working on media co-productions, and also working as a photographer. During that time Sigal worked for Internews Network, as regional director for Asia, Central Asia, and Afghanistan. Sigal has designed and implemented numerous media assistance projects, including helping to create more than 30 Afghan-run radio stations; a project to provide humanitarian information to victims of the 2005 South Asian earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; and a post-2004 tsunami humanitarian information radio program in Sri Lanka.
Erik Hersman is the co-founder of Ushahidi (which means “testimony” in Swahili), a web application created to map the reported incidents of violence during the post-election crisis in Kenya. Currently, he is working with a team to continue development of this new free and open source platform that makes it easier to crowd-source crisis information and visualize data. Hersman is also the founder of AfriGadget, a multi-author website that showcases stories of Africans solving everyday problems with little more than their creativity and ingenuity. Raised in Sudan and Kenya, he brings unique energy and insight to the world of technology and innovation. Hersman writes two different technology blogs – one dedicated to low-tech African ingenuity, and the other to high-tech mobile and web changes happening throughout Africa.