TechCamp Seeks To Address Challenges Journalists Face in Conflict Zones

Posted by Jesse Shaw
June 25, 2013
TechCamp Demonstration in Honduras

Last year, more than 100 journalists were killed globally -- a 20 percent increase from 2011.  Many were targeted directly for their work, often in areas of active conflict.  Given the importance of journalism to the international community’s understanding of conflict, including on-the-ground assessments, the United States will convene a special session of the UN Security Council to highlight the importance of protecting journalists in the field.

In support of this topic, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the StateDepartment’s Office of eDiplomacy, the United States Institute of Peace, and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism are organizing a TechCamp workshop in New York City on July 25-26, 2013, to bring together journalists working in conflict zones, non-governmental organizations and othersthat provide assistance to them, government and UN officials, and technologists.  Unlike traditional conferences, TechCamps are structured “unconferences,” emphasizing participant-generated content, hands-on learning, and networking.  Avoiding the usual speaker-audience divide, a majority of the conference is spent in small group discussions and workshops, allowing participants to share their unique challenges and spend time with technology experts who can walk them through possible tech solutions.

Thus far, there have been 23 TechCamps held all over the world.  As a result of TechCamp Moldova, civil society, developers, and the eGovernment Center of Moldova launched two mobile apps -- an education portal with information about schools in Moldova and a government spending tracker to promote transparency among government officials.  At TechCamp Honduras, participants worked with an American non-governmental organization to create an SMS-based platform that allows citizens to report crimes and threats anonymously to a confidential database maintained by a grassroots civic association.

At TechCampNYC we hope to add to these successes by finding the appropriate tech solution to address problems journalists face in conflict zones.  Innovative activities include interactive training stations on cutting edge programs and “speed geeking” -- in which technologists give five-minute presentations to groups of journalists to help find their right technology “match.”  Issues we will explore include verifying sources in conflict areas, anonymous fact-checking and filing mobile applications, and coping with trauma, all with the goal ofa community and an interface to share best practices and technologies to protect journalists around the world.  Their work is crucial to the international community’s understanding of conflict and, as President Obama has frequently said, to fostering innovative, successful, and stable democracies.

If you are interested in attending TechCampNYC, please apply HERE.  Participation is free.  TechCampNYC will be held at the CUNY Graduate School for Journalism’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism (219 W 40th Street, New York, NY). Check out our website at TechCampGlobal.org/NYC. If you have any questions, please free to email us at usunpress@state.gov.

About the Author: Jesse Shaw is a Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellow currently serving in the Press and Public Diplomacy Section of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

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