Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention

Speeches Shim

USAID and Humanity United launched the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention to identify innovative applications of new and existing technologies to help prevent mass atrocities. Meet our second round winners!

USAID and its partners recognize that 21st century technology is driving tremendous innovation in the private sector and other social sectors, and that some of the tools and solutions used elsewhere might be transformative when applied to atrocity prevention.  This initiative encourages individuals from all backgrounds to bring new perspectives and approaches to solving these problems in support of the President’s vision of ‘never again.’  

USAID is partnering with Humanity United to award prizes for innovative ideas and prototypes that respond to five specific sub-challenges related to atrocity prevention. The first two sub-challenges (third party enablers and safe documentation of evidence) will begin accepting submissions on October 31.  Both sub-challenges will be open for 30 days.  The remaining three sub-challenges opened on March 6, 2013.  

Following the awarding of all prizes, Humanity United and USAID will work together to convene key voices, experts and practitioners on atrocity prevention to meet with prize winners in order to further develop their innovations and help bring these ideas to scale in specific country contexts.

First Round Winners

Sub-Challenge One:  Develop technologies to better identify, spotlight, and deter intentional or unintentional third-party enablers of atrocities (e.g. non-state actors such as multinational corporations, financial institutions or those who provide logistical support).

  • First Place ($5,000) - Electronic Component Validation Tool for New Product Development:  This product idea addresses the challenge of companies unintentionally sourcing microelectronic components from suppliers that produce components using conflict materials.  The tool would fill this gap by providing product designers a way to assess and validate that a component has ‘conflict free’ status during the design and development phase for new products.
  • Second Place ($3,000) - Conscious Vacations:  Conscious Vacations seeks to put pressure on state perpetrators (and those that enable them) by promoting socially-conscious tourism. Conscious Vacations intends to inform potential tourists by sharing data such as the amount of government expenditures spent on security or defense as opposed to other social sectors, incidents of mass atrocities (and other rights abuses) as well as the amount of government revenues raised from the tourism sector.
  • Third Place ($2,000) - Combining Front-Line Research with Cutting-Edge Data Mining Technology to Identify and Stop Enablers of Mass Atrocities:  This project proposes using current platforms for culling, integrating, and analyzing data from various public and private sources—such as those being designed by Palantir for the defense and intelligence communities—to reveal financial relationships and transactions that were previously hidden. The project would combine this analysis with field research and reports from local partners.
  • Honorable Mention - A Method of Identifying and Spotlighting Enablers of Mass Atrocities: Revealing the Ecosystem of Violence - Food Web as Atrocity Web:  The “Atrocity Web” proposes adapting a highly successful model/method derived from an ecosystem analysis which seeks to identify the most critical species in a given (ecological) “food web’. This Solver would apply the food web analysis to the task of identifying (potential and actual) enablers of atrocities in a hypothetical “atrocity web”.

Sub-Challenge Two:  Develop technologies that can enable the documentation of relevant evidence that may be used to deter or hold perpetrators accountable, while minimizing the risk posed to those collecting this information.

  • First Place ($5,000) - The Kivu Link:  This project proposes equipping health professionals with the ability to bridge the link between Magpi mobile data collection platform and Informacam’s cutting-edge secure photo capture system in order to enable physicians to better document evidence of mass atrocities. 
  • Second Place ($3,000) - Silent Lens:  Silent Lens (SL) is an Android application that allows users to covertly take pictures while simultaneously recording the location and time (EXIF data) during Internet blackout situations in a hostile environment using an encrypted peer-to-peer Bluetooth network
  • Third Place ($1,000) - International Evidence Locker:  International Evidence Locker (IEL) proposes a secure system to collect relevant evidence, maintain a clear chain of custody of the evidence so it is admissible in judicial proceedings, and protect the witnesses collecting the evidence.  IEL would be a free, downloadable phone App that enables a user to take a picture of an atrocity in progress, encrypt it, and send it simultaneously to a secure drop-box at a human rights organization for evidence storage.
  • Third Place ($1,000) - Automated Mass Atrocity Algorithmic Analysis Methodology (AMALGAM):  AMALGAM is a concept software program embedded with analytic and professional standards and tools for remote sensing detection and collection of evidence relevant to alleged mass atrocities. This free and open-source platform will allow analysts to easily and systematically process and share with each other remote sensing data specific to predetermined repeating geospatial phenomena.
  • Honorable mention - Tor-enabled services:  This is a proposal to use the Tor-family of products and services in evidence collection and to further upload all the evidence on a secure Tor-enabled server, operated by trusted authorities.

Second Round Winners

Sub-Challenge Three: Identify groundbreaking technological solutions that would enable better and more secure communication among communities in conflict-affected areas. 

Sub-challenge Four: Develop simple, affordable technologies that can be used to gather or verify atrocity-related data from hard-to-access areas, which can then be used to inform the international community.   

  • CrisisTracker, which can quickly detect new political uprisings and disasters by filtering through and grouping millions of social media updates in real-time.
  • π - People’s Intelligence, a platform that taps the power of SMS and “speak to tweet” to help victims of mass atrocities document their stories through a verification dialogue.
  • People’s Radio, a hub for spoken tweets that enables people who do not have internet access to share their stories with a broad audience.
  • Portable Anonymous Communication Technology (P.A.C.T.) platform, which provides access to communications networks in remote areas with poor infrastructure.
  • StoryMaker, a mobile application to help anyone capture high-quality multimedia stories and documentation, created by the StoryMaker Coalition
  • Thread, a platform that allows verified users to collect and track information from mobile transmitting stations to identify current or potential atrocities and send notifications to journalists, humanitarian organizations and civic leaders. 

This sub-challenge was hosted on OpenIDEO – the open innovation platform’s unique approach relies on individuals collaborating for non-monetary incentives, and therefore cash prizes were not awarded for this challenge. However, winners will be encouraged to apply for seed grants to support piloting these ideas with qualifying partner institutions.