Some 1.5 billion people are affected by conflict, wars and atrocities in developing countries, notes a 2011 World Bank World Development Report. However, the events are expected to lessen, as mathematical models that use existing socio-political data to predict mass atrocities will soon alert governments and NGOs on taking preventative measures, winners receiving awards from a competition run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and NGO Humanity International.
In the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention competition, the winners announced on 18 November are set to do further research and pilot their innovations. Reports say that the top five winners from different countries won awards ranging between US$1,000 and US$12,000, among nearly 100 entrants who developed algorithms to predict when and where mass atrocities are likely to happen.
The competition began from the premise that certain social and political measurements are linked to increased likelihood of atrocities. According to organisers of the competition, the new algorithms could help governments and organisations identify risky areas, thus allowing them to intervene before mass atrocities take place.
In the award-winning mathematical model, the algorithms use sociopolitical indicators and data on past atrocities as their inputs. The data was drawn from archives such as the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone, a data set that encodes more than 200 million globally newsworthy events, recording cultural information such as the people involved, their location and any religious connections.
The Model Challenge, which was the last of five sub-challenges within the overarching Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention launched in 2012, successfully drew in new minds and thinking as well as added incentive to develop solutions to challenging problems like atrocity prevention, say reports.
Citing the example of the post-election violence in Kenya that began in 2007 and killed more than 1,000 people, the US Institute of Peace’s Genocide Prevention Task Force put together a list of countries at highest risk of mass atrocities based upon variables known to be associated with such atrocities – yet Kenya was not on the list when the violence ensued, reports continue to say.
In all, the USAID and Humanity United plan to work with the winners to develop and pilot new tools for atrocity prevention.