The Lab's Roundup highlighting stories on technology, media, and data in peacebuilding.
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Working for individuals and communities affected by conflict, using technology, media, & data to accelerate local peacebuilding efforts. 

PeaceTech Pulse

What we're listening to, reading, watching, and following this week.

Few technologies have excited as much interest among peacebuilders in the past year as virtual reality, with mid-tier headsets such as the Google Daydream and the Samsung Gear VR joining the panoply of cardboard viewers  and high performance headsets. As VR headsets proliferate, so too have the journalists, media, nonprofits, universities, and game developers seeking to create meaningful, shaping experiences for consumers. Peacebuilders have taken notice, too. Some have taken to calling virtual reality “the ultimate empathy machine.”  

The linked article cautions people against relying on virtual reality to generate empathy, challenging “VR empathy-building experiences” as brief and ultimately superficial compared with experiences gained through books. The criticism is worth reading, even for those (myself included) who believe in virtual reality’s potential. As a new medium, VR experiences are now sought out at least in part for the novelty they represent and many virtual reality movies and games rely heavily on techniques belonging to more traditional media. To create meaningful impact, designers will need to craft experiences (both static and interactive) that tap into VR’s unique ability to strip away reality and immerse the viewer.

Brief, powerful experiences will soon be joined by longer, more subtle experiences that allow the user to internalize a message. Linear videos may be accompanied by interactive experiences in which the viewer becomes a part of the narrative she is experiencing and engages with it as a participant. As the opportunity to experience VR expands, the field will mature so that yet another powerful media tool can be added to the toolbox of peacebuilders.

Commentary by Derek Caelin | PeaceTech Lab Specialist | PeaceTech Lab


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PeaceTech in Action

Stories from the field. 

Insight on Conflict is a resource published by Peace Direct to support and showcase the work of local peacebuilders around the world. Local peacebuilders make a real impact in conflict areas; however, their work is often ignored – either because people aren’t aware of the existence and importance of local peacebuilders in general or because they haven’t had access to their information and contacts. Insight on Conflict helps redress the balance.

Peace Direct’s network of Local Peace Experts identifies and verifies the work of local peacebuilders in over 40 conflict areas. With a total of 1,462 local peacebuilding organizations profiled, Insight on Conflict is the only online presence for approximately one third of the organizations featured.

Peace Direct provides additional support to local peacebuilders through a monthly newsletter which includes funding opportunities and relevant research. The organizations featured in Insight on Conflict are also brought together to collaborate and share their experiences through in-country “Peace Exchanges”. Peace Direct is exploring ways to hold similar events online.

The site is currently being redeveloped with new ways of visualizing the information collected on local peacebuilding which will allow site visitors to explore the relationship between peace activities and conflict. Peace Direct hopes to publish these changes in the spring.

In the News

Here’s how mobile technology is saving Africans from humanitarian disasters

The increase in phone users in Africa has led to quicker and more effective disaster responses for both natural catastrophes and internal conflict.

Tunisian entrepreneurs get powerful ally in D.C. startup

Affinis Labs is looking to bridge the technology gap that exists between developed and developing countries by coaching entrepreneurs. The next workshop is hoped to be held in a country that was included in Trump's travel ban.

How the Secret Service Protects the President Against New Cyber Threats

As the world become increasingly digitized, Secret Service Agents adapt by securing common objects that connect to the internet which are susceptible to hacking.

Cambodian Government Cites Trump in Threatening Foreign News Outlets

Foreign news groups like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia were warned by a government spokesperson to stop publishing stories that threaten the peace and stability of Cambodia.



While commemorating Women's History Month this March, it is important to recognize the great strides that women have taken to close the gender gap while also recognizing the areas that need improvement. The World Economic Forum released The Global Gender Gap Report for 2016 which aims to measure gender inequality across key areas. The Political Empowerment sub-index reveals a significant gap between male and female political leaders across the world. This disparity must be addressed in order to establish a more democratic world with sustainable peace.
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