New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts

A report on “New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks” has been published by the United Nations Foundation. It provides a useful summary of risks and challenges which apply to all information systems:

… governments, humanitarian agencies, and local communities face challenges and risks associated with modern technological innovation. These include:

  • Information flows must be two-way to be effective — from the external world to the affected community, but also from those affected to the agencies seeking to help them in useful ways.
  • Information will not be used unless it is trusted. The utility of any technologies will depend on the social context. People are a vital part of the communication system.
  • Information will be helpful only if it is accurate. There are risks in unregulated information flows, especially when these are spread rapidly online, and these risks need to be managed. Authentication is a key challenge.