19 February 2013

Africa: Competition Seeks Best Ways to Use Technology to Stop Atrocities

press release

Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its partner Humanity United have announced the first-round winners of the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention, a technology competition enlisting problem solvers from around the world in support of the Obama administration's effort to design new tools to prevent mass atrocities.

Physicians for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, won a first-place prize of $5,000 for a mobile phone app that allows physicians in developing countries to better document evidence of mass atrocities. Le-Marie Thompson, the founder of a product development company based in Bowie, Maryland, also won a first-place prize for Web-based software that allows product designers to ensure that a product's electronic components are "conflict-free."

Second-place winning ideas include a platform to promote socially conscious tourism, submitted by Fiona Mati, a project manager at a solar energy company in Kenya.

Applicants from 22 countries submitted 88 innovative technologies addressing two challenges: identify, spotlight and deter third-party enablers of atrocities; or support documentation of atrocities to hold perpetrators accountable. Seven innovations won first-, second- and third-place prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention is part of a broader effort by USAID to promote open source development, including the use of prizes to access untapped solutions and problem solvers for specific development issues.

"At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last April, President Obama spoke about one of these challenges: preventing mass atrocities and genocide. Recognizing the power of NGOs, faith groups, and young people to help prevent mass atrocities, the President emphasized that achieving this goal didn't start from the top: 'It starts from the bottom up,'" USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a February 14 press release.

"What's exciting about the Tech Challenge is the opportunity for individuals and groups around the world to provide innovative solutions to some of the world's most intractable problems. The chance to leverage the skills and experience of such a global audience is truly extraordinary," said Randy Newcomb, CEO of Humanity United.

A jury comprising human rights and technology experts and U.S. government leaders reviewed the proposals and chose the winners. Following the awarding of prizes, Humanity United and USAID will work to pilot and scale the most promising innovations.

The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention will host in the coming weeks an interactive Google+ Hangout to launch its next three subchallenges.

More information about the competition and the first-round winners is available from a joint website on the tech challenge by USAID and Humanity United.

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