There is an increasingly well-recognized and vivid need among peacebuilders for increased access to technological tools that can advance their efforts. However, peacebuilders across sectors are confronted by resource, time, and capacity constraints that often make it difficult or impossible to efficiently use technological tools in their program design, implementation, and analysis.

Additional challenges to peacebuilding more generally include creating programs that are context-relevant, inclusive, broadly accessible, and which have widespread participation from affected communities. There are also challenges specific to using technology in conflict and post-conflict contexts, such as weakened or destroyed mobile infrastructures, legal restrictions, insecure environments, and ethical considerations.

JustPeace Labs addresses these challenges by offering peacebuilders a robust, user-friendly online development platform for creating targeted mobile applications.

Context

Recognizing the need for context-specific technology use, we will make it easier for peacebuilders to unleash the power of technology in ways that are designed for and with the input of the peacebuilding community to ensure each application is situation-specific. Our development platform will also address difficult challenges specific to using technology in post-conflict settings, such as the ethics and security of using mobile apps in peacebuilding work, and the inequalities in access to technological tools amongst local communities.

Access

By creating a robust and easy-to-use tool for mobile application development, more organizations and peacebuilders will have access to the benefits of technology. Based online and designed for non-technical users, the application will increase access to technological tools amongst traditionally harder to reach constituencies, such as women and rural communities. Grassroots organizations will not need special software, equipment, or technical capacity to use our platform. Anyone, anywhere, can use it.

Inclusion & Participation

It will also allow peacebuilders to reach larger groups of people, collect better information, engage in more in-depth analysis, and do so quickly, in peacebuilding contexts where timing is critical and resources are scarce. With more people able to design mobile apps specific to their context and goals, more people will be included in the peace process. This will generate a new social infrastructure where communities feel more connected to peacebuilding programs, and more invested in seeing their success.

Empowerment

Our app development platform is designed to empower local civil society organizations, which may lack the capacity to design similar tools in-house, to be able to use technology in their work. By increasing direct access to peacebuilding programs, local civil society groups and communities will become empowered participants in creating peaceful societies, thereby increasing the legitimacy of technology in fragile post-conflict environments and making information sharing horizontal (between beneficiaries) rather than hierarchical (from beneficiaries to donors/implementers).

How it works

The development platform will allow peacebuilders to quickly design, create, and implement mobile applications to support their work. For example, an organization working on rule of law or governance issues will be able to gather information from local communities by designing a survey application using the platform. Another organization would be able to use the interface to create a mobile application to inform communities of upcoming elections information, town-hall meetings, security updates, or other critical information that has traditionally been difficult for peacebuilders to disseminate quickly and efficiently across communities or in rural areas. The interface could also be used by peacebuilders working in the field to securely collect and send data about crimes and human rights violations, the environment, or local economies. Or it could be used to create a central hub of information and communication to facilitate cooperation between peacebuilding organizations. The types and uses of the apps that can be developed on our platform are many–we will develop features and add-ons to be able to address the most common app types, as well as provide opportunities for customization.

The platform will also include tools for easy data analysis. Peacebuilders will be able to gather data from their mobile applications or other sources, such as government open data. It will be easy to analyze information and create visuals to support findings and reports, improve advocacy and awareness-raising efforts, or measure the impact of their programs.

The interface will be intuitive and will require very little training and no technological expertise to operate. The applications will be web-based, and therefore will work across mobile platforms (such as Android, iOS, FirefoxOS, and others). There will be built-in features unique to peacebuilding contexts, such as language support, image/shape support (for example to allow communication with illiterate users), encryption, verification, and data analysis. We will also offer opportunities to customize the platform to the needs of specific organizations through an extendable plugin system.

Our project will use the global reach of the web and its latest developments to build a platform that everyone can use, from any device or system. In particular, our project will take advantage of the following technologies:

  • HTML5. The web was conceived as a “universal” medium with no walled gardens owned by major platforms or corporations. This idea informs the premise of our project. We will be using HTML5 and the latest web technologies to create a global reach, making sure we leverage features like offline-capability (Appcache, service workers) to provide service to areas with low-connectivity. Our tools will work on every device.

  • SMS-based interfaces. Using services like Twilio or Frontline SMS, our platform will allow peacebuilders to reach people living in low or 0-connectivity areas.

  • Modular, pluggable architecture. We intend to design the system with a modular architecture so that once the project is open-sourced people and organizations can easily build plugins for their use-cases.

  • Integration with existing tools and workflows. Peacebuilders will not have to learn a whole new application and interface to utilize this tool. Instead it can be integrated with existing software like Google Docs or LibreOffice.

In this way, JustPeace Labs brings the power of technological tools to the global community of peacebuilders and in turn increases inclusivity and local ownership of peacebuilding initiatives. We welcome your ideas and feedback. Please contact us at jen@justpeacelabs.org.