Technological innovation is reshaping global economies and daily lives. Commercial industries use new technologies to do business smarter, faster, and more efficiently; at the same time, technology has become a driver of conflict around the world. The humanitarian and development space have benefitted from the use of new technologies to improve international agencies’ work around the world.

In this context, the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office tasked the SIPA Capstone team to identify key challenges in the field of peacebuilding where “big data” technologies can have the greatest impact. The team identified three drivers of conflict:

  • population migration,
  • hate speech
  • exclusion and the perceptions of exclusion.

The team also identified two core peacebuilding processes: conflict early warning and prediction,  and program monitoring and evaluation. The final report recommended issue-specific big data solutions, such as social media analysis to identify “hate speech lexicons” in at-risk communities, robust frameworks for risk forecasting and measuring cell traffic to identify populations on the move. The report also addressed challenges associated with these recommendations, such as the need for ethical guidelines for collecting and storing sensitive information before initiating a project.