BLOG: The role of technology in conflict-affected settings

BLOG: The role of technology in conflict-affected settings

2nd May 2018 | Aktis staff

Recognising the numerous benefits of technology to advancing development, Aktis Strategy is deeply involved in scoping out new technologies and applying innovations to solving security and development challenges. We work alongside our sister company, AKTEK, to design and develop technologies for conflict-affected environments.

 

Humanitarian and development agents are well aware of the challenges inherent to responding to a rapidly-changing context where information flow is weak: a fast response time can be critical. These difficulties are regularly compounded by a lack of institutional capacity to respond on the part of our host / partner governments in fragile states. Building upon our understanding of fragile environments, Aktis and AKTEK have developed an information management system that is tailored to operate in conflict-affected states. Although no technology can solve entrenched institutional problems, it can assist internal co-ordination and facilitate better situational responses, ultimately providing a framework for more robust institutions.

 

Information management systems (IMS) are types software that effectively consolidate data and enable the easy collection and organisation of information. IMS help users to better process information that is difficult to handle, either as a result of the sheer size of information flow (big data), the lack of structure in reporting, or the disparity in formats from data at source. Our software has been especially designed for maximum ease of use, ensuring that it can be quickly learnt and implemented even where the surrounding infrastructure may be poor as in some parts of the Horn of Africa and Middle East.

 

By linking the database to a mobile phone application, our tool enables information originating from differing locations to be quickly and securely recorded in a single system so as to reduce gaps, both in time and distance, between field observations and strategic decisions. Data can subsequently be aggregated and mined to reveal trends and irregularities of strategic and tactical significance, enabling longer term solutions to be developed.

 

AKTEK’s IMS software has been adopted by two governments to improve national security: one to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa, and the other to improve territorial security and fend off terrorism threats in the Levant. Piracy in the Horn of Africa has been an ongoing problem for commercial shipping, particularly since 2008. 

 

Such fragile states regularly lack the institutional capacity to respond to key security threats. Aktis Strategy has worked to build this capacity by working with a local coastguard and relevant actors. By creating a system which enables easy logging of security incidents at sea, decision makers on the ground can consider events and the best course of action to respond. The logging of daily events within a central database also enables spatiotemporal analysis to determine trends in piracy, thereby facilitating more effective counter-piracy activities. Used on a daily basis since early 2017 to analyse the evolving operating context at sea, the IMS contributed to moving the coastguard to a proactive organisational culture that consciously combats internal silos and seeks to base strategic decisions on objective data-driven insights.

 

In the Levant, poor border security has enabled criminals and militants to cross between states. In Lebanon, for instance, militants have crossed from Syria into the Qalamoun region in the east. This cross-border activity escalated in the 2014 battle in Arsal, when militants launched an attack against the Lebanese Armed Forces. In Jordan, militants have repeatedly sought to enter the country through the northern border. Maintaining control over territorial integrity is central to statehood and the safety of residents in border areas. Our software was again employed here to provide automated updates on environmental changes and to assist with the coordination of communications between units. Also used on a daily basis, the IMS contributes to better decisions at a strategic level, enabling the security agency to better track and understand the readiness of its land regiments, as well as observed movements of malicious actors, thereby increasing its efficacy in combating threats to its territory. This system has been operating since 2015, reinforcing national security in a very critical time for the region.

 

Streamlining information management is the first step towards effective governance and security. With the ability to quickly adapt to unique information requirements, IMS software built in a manner tailored and responsive to complex conflict contexts holds considerable potential for institutions and organisations more broadly. Its uptake is therefore an easy and cost-efficient way to increase institutional efficacy and better support local communities.