November 2005

The Human Network PEACE and ICT Research Project

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Abstract:
The Human Network PEACE and ICT Research Project is an ongoing, youth-led research initiative supported by the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Studies.  It questions the role of information and communication technologies in peace processes focusing on the role of the digital divide as a potential constrain to constructive, grassroots dialogue in conflict situations.  This article highlights the conceptual framework of the research, interlinking modern communication technologies with peace building, and presents preliminary findings and observations.  The picture emerging at this stage is of digital divide being a highly debatable matter.  While there are de-facto practices of utilization of information technologies in peace building processes, particularly by the youth, this aspect of e-inclusion is usually neglected by the official policies, thus marginalizing its potential.

A quote addressed to American president Harry Truman states: “It is understanding that gives us ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint and he understands ours, than we can sit down and work our differences.”  But what happens when significant portions of population are excluded from the communication process?  What is the true role of grassroots communication and how it can contribute to sustainable peace?  How does it fit what is labeled as “information revolution”?  The scope of raising questions is limitless.

The Human Network PEACE and ICT Research Project is a potentially unique, youth-led research initiative supported by the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Studies.  Led by 13 young researchers based in 10 different locations all over the globe it questions the (potential) role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in peace processes.  Particularly, it examines the role of the digital divide and policies and practices aimed to bridge it, as potential constrains to, or elements of, a constructive grassroots dialogue in conflict situations.  The data is being collected through questionnaires aimed to young people, interviews of policy makers, industry leaders and civil society players, as well as conduction of discussion groups, which bring together the aforementioned participants. 

In an effort to answer the questions above, this article will highlight the conceptual framework of the research, interlinking modern communication technologies with peace building, which appears to be a new approach to the issue in hand.  It will focus on the research process itself, emphasizing its youth leadership and perspective as well as the online nature of its conducting. 

Conceptual framework.
There is a growing body of literature dealing with the roles of children and young people in armed conflicts and the effects of such conflicts on their development (Brett & MacCallin, 1998; Machel, 1996; Wessles, 1998). Young people tend to be shock absorbers of social change and are profoundly effected by various forms of violence

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