26 DIGITALLY ENHANCED CHILD PROTECTION: How new technology can prevent violence against children in the Global South
Violence Prevention and Peace Building
Within the field of violence prevention and peace building, there is a strong appreciation of the recent advances
in geographic information systems, website development and ICT for monitoring and mapping of population
dispersals, troop movements, and mass violence patterns.
examples of these new virtual mechanisms
for collaborative conflict prevention and digital witnessing include satellite maps, big data scraping systems,
crowd mapping, as well as social media, blogs, wikis, and citizen journalism.
Local peace builders are using these tools to bring new voices to the public domain. In the Congo, War Child UK
is linking together a child helpline, an SMS reporting system and a digital map to show in real time where the
worst cases of rape cases are happening.
In Lebanon, Search for Common Ground ran a video competition
that asked Lebanese youth to ‘Shoot [their] Identity’.
Videos showcasing a diversity of experiences were
posted online, with a prize awarded to the best video.
In Brazil, young radio reporters run “good news stories” with the aim to unite youngsters living in different
communities in the city of Recife where gang violence is rife.
In Rio de Janeiro, the Igarapé Institute’s Child
Security Index is mobile app deliberately designed for rapid assessments in unstable settings, enabling the
quick collection and visualization of the views of children themselves, as young as 8 years old, on security
and safety in their day-to-day lives.
The fact is that working with children in high-violence areas brings specific challenges.Indeed, the tools
frequently deployed to undertake assessments are blunt. For instance, household survey-based attempts to
gather data on children in conflict and fragile settings regularly fail to capture the situation of children not living
with their families. Children are often separated from their families either as refugees, displaced, disappeared,
or in the ranks of armies and insurgency groups. What is more, these children register specific vulnerabilities
that require careful, and ethically grounded, attention.
A thorough review commissioned by the Department for International Development (UK) explores the application of full range of ICT-based
mechanisms to monitor and evaluate, including measure and disseminate, results of peacebuilding programs (Corlazzoli 2014). Also see Larrauri
(2014) and Muggah (2014).
The ICT4Peace Foundation catalogues existing ICT tools and mechanisms geared towards conflict early warning, mitigation, transformation
and post-conflict recovery – see their wiki. Also the 2015 Build Peace conference will continue the exploration of how technology is resulting in the
creation of alternative intrastructures for peace. See http://howtobuildpeace.org/blog/jenwelch1/.
See War Child UK’s video about the project here: http://youtu.be/RZdimyy0Bw8. Similar sexual violence mapping is happening in other conflict-
affected areas, such as Syria where, Women under Siege are using the crowd-mapping initiative by Ushahidi to collect the personal experiences and
secondhand reports of the sexualized violence against women and girls http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/ and http://www.ushahidi.com/
For more on the Favela News project in Recife see Shaw (2007), da Silva and Shaw (2011) and Shine a Light (2011) and its website http://
See Moestue and Muggah (2012).
IGARAPÉ INSTITUTE | STRATEGIc PAPER 10 | NOVEMBER 2014
New technologies, when used strategically and appropriately, can promote the principles of inclusion,
empowerment and participation of children and youth. They can amplify their and others efforts to prevent
violence against children, including in poor and unstable settings. alongside helplines and digitalized protection
systems which serve important and functional purposes are also new digital research tools, online citizen
reporting and crowd mapping.
By breaking down traditional barriers to violence reporting and evidence generation, ICTs can contribute to the
achievement of the six steps put forward by UNICef to prevent and respond to the problem:
1. Implementing laws and policies that protect children. Specifically, investments in appropriate
policies and legislation, along with institutional codes of conduct. Tech-driven information sharing is
speeding up communication and expanding the scale and impact of anti-violence campaigns.
2. Carrying out data collection and research. effective advocacy and programming are grounded
in solid evidence. Big data analysis, digital research tools and citizen reporting and crowd mapping,
are all means to which new data are being generated and visualized in increasingly innovating and
3. supporting parents, caregivers and families. providing parents with child-rearing strategies and
techniques, as well as economic support, can help mitigate children’s risk of physical abuse. Educational
apps, online help and discussion forums, helplines, virtual home visits and remote monitoring of at-risk
families, are all ways in which ICTs can promote positive and non-violent parenting.
4. Helping children and adolescents manage risks and challenges. Poverty and inequality, difficulties
in school, low self-esteem and self-discipline, and lack of information on where to get help can increase
a child’s vulnerability to violence. Helplines, online information and discussion, coupled with the near
universal access to mobile phones, provides new ways in which children and youth can seek help and
advice on any issue, even taboo subjects such as sexual abuse.
A Governments and non-state groups are also reliant on communications to coordinate and monitor potential targets. Security forces, rebel
groups and militia can and do intercept messages (Muggah 2014)
See UNICEF (2014a).
Technology is therefore not the panacea. There are a range of inherent tensions and ethical dilemmas that come
with the use of new technologies in fragile, poor or conflict-affected settings. for example, new technologies
can themselves be used to perpetrate organized violence. Researchers have already found that mobile phone
coverage can generate negative externalities, including facilitating violent collective action, underlining the
importance of encryption and anonymity in today’s war zones.
28 DIGITALLY ENHANCED CHILD PROTECTION: How new technology can prevent violence against children in the Global South
5. Changing attitudes and social norms that encourage violence and discrimination. Deeply
engrained attitudes and social norms can shift through school and community programs that engage
influential, trusted individuals as agents of change, complemented with evidence-based mass media
and social mobilization campaigns. ICT can empower children and youth to have their voices heard,
and engage in local to global campaigns to change attitudes and behavior around abuse, neglect,
prejudice and injustices.
6. Providing and promoting support services for children. Services include counseling; information
and referrals for other protection services offered through the police, doctors, social welfare workers
and assistance. Helplines, websites, and mobile maps and apps can refer children to nearest services,
and even enable denouncements and reporting of harm at these services.
This Strategic paper demonstrates that different sectors and disciplines are starting to adopt and apply similar
ICT tools to prevent VaC. There is some evidence of their being tried and tested (albeit at relatively small
scale) across the americas, africa and asia. However, to generate impact at scale and be sustainable, these
initiatives demand more resources, robust evaluation, and extensive communication of success (and failure).
Whilst technology will never fully resolve the problem of violence against children, ICTs are already going a
long way to changing how society conceives and engages the problem.
IGARAPÉ INSTITUTE | STRATEGIc PAPER 10 | NOVEMBER 2014
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Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested