The Growing Contribution of Technology to Democracy and Conflict Resolution

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…everything is connected

This briefing paper reviews the increasing contribution of technology to democracy and conflict resolution. It examines the consequences of pervasive Information Communications Technology (ICT) and a global networked society engaged in a state of perpetual communication. The requirement for agile decision making from state to individual level and the effects of the democratisation of technology are discussed. The paper examines the evidence that Moore’s law continues to be extant, contributing to the democratisation of data, through social media. The information deluge will result in more objective knowledge but governments and organisations must be positioned to take advantage of these circumstances. The global situation will become more complex but technology has a key role to play in mitigating conflicts; from increasing awareness, providing more accurate assessments and enabling deeper and more comprehensive conflict resolution. The paper concludes with a discussion on the importance of the freedom to access information and to harness technology as a means to provide the best possible conditions for stable democracy and conflict resolution. Introduction and Background In Paris on the evening of 7 April 1814, two envoys, one British and one French, set off on a journey to the city of Toulouse. They were tasked with conveying a message that Napoleon had unconditionally abdicated and the French Monarchy restored, ending twelve years of war between Britain and France. The envoys arrived in Toulouse on 12 April. The battle of Toulouse was fought on 10 April; the British suffered 4,558 needless casualties, the French 3,236. Technology in today’s world offers very different opportunities for conflict awareness, assessment and resolution. As an example, at the conclusion of 2010, a press statement announced that, ‘The Satellite Sentinel Project - initiated by George Clooney - combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google's Map Maker technology to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan. The project provides an early warning system to deter mass atrocities by focusing world attention and generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns.’1 Technology and mankind’s harnessing of its powers and effects have always been fundamental to all human activities. In the modern world, the omnipotent nature of technology is increasingly defining how human activities and interactions are undertaken. It appears that the rate and depth of mankind’s relationship with technology is maturing at a rate where a tipping point to a new level of interdependency will be achieved, with enormous consequences from the affairs of states, to opportunities presented to individuals (Arthur 2010). On Mon 1 Feb 2011, President Obama gave a statement on the Egyptian political crisis. Within the carefully crafted words, were these two sentences, ‘’We stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and the freedom to access information. Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens.”2 1 2

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The Egyptian crisis has arisen from a complex interaction of endogenous and exogenous factors, but the chronology of the sequence of events can be traced to the self-immolation of a young Tunisian man, Mohamed Bouazizi, which has been identified by many as the trigger for the popular uprising in Tunisia. The event would most likely not have achieved this effect without the decisive contribution of technology. ‘In another era we might not have even heard of this clash, but with cellular phone...
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