Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention Uncovers New Technologies for Preventing Mass Atrocities

Nine Winners from Around the Globe Recognized for Creative Tech Solutions to Stop and Prevent Human Rights Violations

Jul 10, 2013, 12:00 ET from Humanity United

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Humanity United today announced the winners of the second round of the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention, unveiling a new wave of promising technologies with the potential to save lives and assist communities at risk in conflict.

The Tech Challenge competition was created in support of the White House's strategy for preventing mass atrocities. It encourages participants to identify and create technology-based tools to help prevent atrocities like genocide and ethnic cleansing. Winners were selected by a prestigious panel of judges, comprised of human rights and technology experts and U.S. government leaders.

The latest round of awards addressed two sub-challenges: Communicate and Alert. More than 116 ideas were submitted for the Communicate challenge, which sought to identify groundbreaking technological solutions that would enable better and more secure communication among communities in conflict-affected areas. The top winners are:

  • First place: Serval Project, a mobile phone software that operates even in the face of catastrophic infrastructure failure, created by a team comprised of Paul Gardner-Stephen, Dione Gardner-Stephen and Matthew Lloyd
  • Second place: IVR Junction, an open-source, voice-based tool that allows people to record and listen to social media posts via mobile phone; developed by Microsoft Research India's Aditya Vashistha and Bill Thies
  • Third place: AM/Burst SMS, which uses wind-up radios for AM "pirate" broadcasting and an SMS or voice message system to overcome obstacles in each direction of communication; created by Steve McGeown

Concepts for the Communicate challenge were submitted via InnoCentive, a leading global platform for crowd-sourcing solutions for a variety of topics. Winners received prizes ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.

The Alert sub-challenge asked innovators to develop simple, affordable technologies that can be used to gather or verify atrocity-related data from hard-to-access areas, which can then be used to inform the international community. Selected from the 166 submitted concepts, the winning entries are:

  • CrisisTracker, which can quickly detect new political uprisings and disasters by filtering through and grouping millions of social media updates in real-time; submitted by Jakob Rogstadius, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Madeira
  • People's Intelligence, a platform that taps the power of SMS and "speak to tweet" to help victims of mass atrocities document their stories through a verification dialogue, created by Christophe Billen, an analyst at the International Criminal Court
  • People's Radio, a hub for spoken tweets that enables people who do not have internet access to share their stories with a broad audience, developed by Karoline K., a master's student in London
  • Portable Anonymous Communication Technology (P.A.C.T.) platform, which provides access to communications networks in remote areas with poor infrastructure; Richard Brion, a military veteran in Seattle, was inspired to build the system by his friend in Kenya
  • StoryMaker, a mobile application to help anyone capture high-quality multimedia stories and documentation, created by the StoryMaker Coalition
  • Thread, a platform that allows verified users to collect and track information from mobile transmitting stations to identify current or potential atrocities and send notifications to journalists, humanitarian organizations and civic leaders; developed by T. Annie Nguyen, a digital designer in New York City

Alert was hosted on OpenIDEO, an open innovation platform for social good that brings a broad mix of people together to create new solutions. OpenIDEO's unique approach relies on individuals collaborating for non-monetary incentives, and therefore cash prizes were not awarded for this challenge. However, winners will be encouraged to apply for seed grants to support piloting these ideas with qualifying partner institutions. More details will be forthcoming shortly.

"We were interested in finding a way to spur new ideas and creative approaches from some of the brightest minds in the world," said USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Sarah Mendelson. "Humanity United has been the perfect partner to do this with. This venture has opened the door to dozens of technological solutions with the potential to empower at-risk individuals and communities. We are encouraged and inspired by the results."

"We are proud to sponsor the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with USAID," said Randy Newcomb, president and CEO of Humanity United, a human rights foundation. "The results of the Tech Challenge demonstrate that there is a great deal of opportunity at the intersection of technology and human rights, particularly in how technology-based tools can aid communities and human rights advocates by improving the flow of information in conflict-afflicted areas."

The first round of winners—Enablers and Capture—were announced in February 2013. A final sub-challenge, Model, remains open for submissions. More detail on each of the challenges is available at

About the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention
The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention launched in October 2012 as a way to encourage individuals, groups and organizations to apply technology-based solutions to the most significant challenges surrounding atrocity prevention. Humanity United and USAID will explore the possibility of piloting and scaling the most promising innovations.

USAID (United States Agency for International Development) carries out U.S. foreign policy by promoting broad-scale human progress at the same time it expands stable, free societies, creates markets and trade partners for the U.S., and fosters good will abroad. | @USAID

About Humanity United
Humanity United is a foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom. | @HumanityUnited


SOURCE Humanity United