Worldwide Information Network System
A web-based, open platform for actors in all sectors to share, visualize, and analyze data related to the underlying conditions of conflict that exist in areas prone to violence and mass atrocities globally to inform policy and enable action.
Atrocity prevention is about more than collecting and presenting data about conflict risk and opportunities for peacebuilding in an eye-catching and clever way. We also need to present data in a way that simultaneously entices and helps facilitate exchanges among networks of actors who don't usually talk to one another. All sectors must be creatively engaged and working together to effectively confront the challenges that make up the underlying conditions of conflict. These social, economic, political, and security issues are all interrelated. Absent the big picture, solving one problem in isolation may just exacerbate another.
Conceptual Visualization of the WINS Platform
Everybody wants data. If you can get government agencies, NGOs, companies, and communities to share and use data on a web-based platform, you can get them to talk to one another. If you can get them to share data and talk to one another, you can get them to pay attention to the findings. An added benefit of being able to aggregate and disaggregate the data from different sources is the value of cross validation, filling gaps, and running correlations. This has been accomplished on a national level in Liberia and Nigeria. Based on the success of this model, we now want to make it global by expanding an existing platform to be the Worldwide Information Network System (W.I.N.S.). By encouraging contributions and use by all sectors of society, we believe everybody W.I.N.S.
We have an existing platform that brings together data and actors from various sectors in Liberia and Nigeria. We would like to expand this initial application to include other countries and invite actors from all sectors to input data. Anyone could then have access to the data and generate reports from it. They could query the data by source, indicator, sub-indicator, country, province, community, time range, etc. The tool would generate maps (toggling between cluster view, heat map, and markers), as well as charts comparing area to area, time period to time period, and indicator to indicator. Additionally, the user would have access to a drawing tool bar to mark up the maps and the ability to add their own KML layers. Spreadsheets could be downloaded and users could issues their own reports, post them on the platform, encourage comments and call for actions to be undertaken in the form of alerts. They could hold meetings with interested actors in other sectors as well as detail their responses or abilities to respond on the map, letting users know who they can reach out to for assistance in the event of a crisis. Such a capability would lead to greater collaboration among the sectors and build greater trust and respect among the sectors while reducing the duplication of efforts.
For hard-to-access areas, this concept engages those with pre-existing datasets. We are open to all actors with a variety of data sources to ensure as much coverage as possible. We also actively create networks of NGOs who work in hard-to-access areas and conduct participatory workshops with local civil society to build lines of communication down to the community level. Based on our experience, we have found that different methods (SMS, workshops, email, radio etc.) are optimal to link them into the web-based platform.
We believe the users are motivated – by either a desire or need for data or a desire or need to report – and so this just supplies a place for it to be aggregated and for the whole network of users to look at the data in different ways to identify issues that need to be addressed to prevent atrocities, which often occur in places where the underlying conditions of conflict have not been adequately addressed. By taking a global approach, we would also be able to identify those areas in which access to information and their ability to communicate with others needs to be addressed through efforts of others participating in the system.
How does your idea gather AND verify information? How does your idea keep those who use it safe?
Data would be collected from the whole community of users. Data that has been entered identifying its source would be more verifiable. Because of the amount of data, misinformation or inaccurate information should be easy to identify. There are groups with whom we work that can identify anomalies in data, which can then flag the data that it needs to be verified and possibly marked as questionable or removed. This is something we want to flush out with partners during the prototyping phase.
There is a section of the database where data can be entered anonymously or they can create a section within the larger databank where the information is recognized as their unique inputs.
How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?
Using the existing platform created for Nigeria, our intent is to expand it globally and add pre-existing data. We would also encourage those already using the platform to add data from other countries while utilizing our existing local networks in other countries to expand the application rapidly across the globe.
How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?
As mentioned, this is a web-based platform that would accept data using a wide-range of pre-existing technologies, like SMS, e-mail, and uploading directly via the Internet. Also, we have been using this method of data collection nationally in both Liberia and Nigeria.
How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?
Given the fact that this has successfully been done before, we believe that scaling up, adding functionality, and making it user-friendly across a broader user base would not be technically prohibitive. We have an existing network of technical experts who would enthusiastically embrace the challenge to contribute to such an important issue.
Users on the current platform in Nigeria include large NGOs who have employed it to inform baseline assessments, site selection, project planning and design, and M&E. In addition, a government agency has used the map in presentations to high-level staff on conflict trends while local civil society organizations have uploaded their coordinates to the map, demonstrating its application at both the national and sub-national levels. Multisectoral roundtable discussions have also been held in the US and Nigeria to discuss findings and trends with high-level diplomats, practitioners, and donor groups.
How is your idea adapted for conditions in hard-to-access areas, such as lack of internet and mobile access? Can users adopt it without much behavior change?
For hard-to-access areas, this concept relies on the fact that the platform is open to all actors with a variety of data sources to get as much coverage as possible. We also create networks of NGOs who work in these areas and gather data from communities, enabling the collection of information that otherwise might not be accessible. One method that could be employed in specific areas of interest would be to ensure local actors did have access to mobile phones or radios so they could report back to a central hub that would be able to collect the data and, ideally, access the internet to upload the information to the wider community. Flexibility is necessary to limit the need for behavior change as a barrier to entry.
Based on our work in hard-to-reach places, we believe that users are already motivated – by either a desire or need for the data or a desire or need to report information – and so this platform supplies a place for it to be aggregated. In addition, it allows the whole network of users to look at the data in different ways to identify the underlying conditions of conflict which have not been adequately addressed to prevent violence and mass atrocities. By taking a global approach, we would also be able to pinpoint and access hard-to-reach areas and key communities with vital information. This would provide a link for actors in remote areas to communicate data to others participating in the system who are in a better position to respond.