ICT for Peace and Security in Africa

Published on 16th November 2010

Peace and security are a prerequisite for ensuring sustainable development. Peace, the friendly understanding of all individuals or groups of individuals composing a society, is the goal sought by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union. Hence, the year 2010 was declared Year of Peace and Security in Africa at the Tripoli Special Session.

How can ICTs contribute to peace and security in Africa?

1. Conflict prevention

• The Continental Early Warning System of the African Union Commission (AUC)

To carry out its activities for peace and security in Africa, the Department of Peace and Security in the AU Commission harnessed the latest information and communications technology to facilitate their work and processes. A Continental Early Warning System (Continental Early warning system - CEWS) was deployed in a situation room to:

-Collect and provide timely information relating to potential, actual conflicts, and post-conflict activities;

-Provide reports on specific issues on request from the decision makers in the AUC

-Provide the AU headquarters with a 24/7 – mission – wide information gathering and dissemination capacity

-Serve as Point-of-contact and communication Room for the Peace and Security Department of the AU Commission.

2. Peacekeeping and Peace-building

• Radio and communication systems for Peace.

Today, the international peacekeeping forces on the field endeavor to establish a communication system for peace by setting up their own radio. With the community systems of communication for Peace, the impact will be even greater and the effects on the restoration of a peaceful environment faster.

Indeed, the actors of development in Africa can facilitate the implementation of promising and innovative ways of making use of the ICTs and other means of disseminating, exchanging and using information conducive to peace and development. In post-conflict situation, a network of community radio can be set up to open the door to new opportunities for collaboration and support to peace effort.

Such a communication network is generally composed of local communication centers located throughout the country. The network’s activity consists in documenting local peace-building practices so as to broadcast news intended for the public and dealing with issues related to the consolidation of peace as leverage for taking over, for development, for peace and equality between man and woman. Broadcasting is thus performed locally, regionally and nationally.

3. Keeping a safe and secure environment

• Mobile phone and computing to ensure transparency of elections.

Not mastering ICTs in the context of huge responsibility and political complexity involved in the electoral process may lead to failure in the organization of elections and to highly non-objective results. Hence, to avoid fraud and disputes that may taint the election process, we can make use of ICTs in the preparation and organization of election polling particularly upstream in the development of voter registration and preparation of registration cards in line with technical and political requirements expected in order to make them more credible or undisputable. Downstream, at the counting of the votes obtained by the candidates, ICTs can be used by the representatives of the candidates in the polls to submit the results by SMS directly to their base via the mobile phone.

• Internet and participatory and interactive networking to ensure the flow of information.

Freedom of expression and the dissemination of truthful information are rights and means now widely used, through ICTs, by public opinion in order to help maintain public order, denounce abuses and atrocities. In short, participatory and interactive systems help and promote the keeping of a safe and healthy environment for all. ICTs then offer today as many open social networks like Twitter and Facebook as professional networks like "The Observers" in France 24 news channel, which allow dissemination and sharing of free information outside official communication channels owned or controlled by public authority, which affects, in some cases, accessibility and integrity of information.

Africa is not left behind as a producer of technology resource allowing for sharing true information and subsequently for back warding impunity loosing ground to a healthy and peaceful environment. Indeed, the software Ushahidi, created in 2008 from Kenya, allows following in real time crisis from the point of view of those who experience them. With this tool, people can use a mobile phone, SMS or e-mail, to describe the tragedies they are going through or that are being experienced around them. Such an ICT tool is now replicated in Ghana, South Africa, DRC and throughout Africa, wherever the need to communicate on a latent or actual crisis arises. This ICT program is used today by the news channel Al Jazeera to report on conflicts in the Middle East.

Here is our Year of Peace, let’s take action for peace using  the ICTs.

Courtesy: African Union

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