The Internet Means Rwanda Cannot Happen Again

Today’s UK Guardian quotes from an interview with Gordon Brown in which he reflects on the role of technology in post-election Iran.

According to Brown, the internet means that “foreign policy can never be the same again” and because of the way information is now distributed, “you cannot have Rwanda again … foreign policy can no longer be the province of just a few elites.” He descibed this as “more tumultuous than any previous economic or social revolution” and said that “this week’s events in Iran are a reminder of the way that people are using new technology to come together in new ways to make their views known.”

Some rather bold words. If we have learned anything in the field of conflict early warning it is that timely information is rarely the barrier to rapid and effective response. In other words, more information, even if shared globally, does not imply that response will follow. Furthermore, advocacy does not equate to operational response and conflict prevention.

Can a global panopticon really deter armed conflict?

There is plenty of public information on Darfur, ranging from the Google Earth Darfur project to Eyes on Darfur initiative. The latter provides regularly updated high-resolution satellite imagery of at-risk villages on a website for all the world to see should one or more of the villages be attacked. It is unclear whether this has in fact served as a deterrent. Please see my post on GIS Technology for Genocide Prevention.

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