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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, USAID announced four new grants to winners of the joint USAID-Humanity United Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention. The grants of up to $50,000 will help recipients partner with an operational NGO or an established human rights group to further develop and pilot their innovations to document atrocities and facilitate communication for those at risk.
“We launched the Tech Challenge with Humanity United two years ago to develop technologies to combat and prevent mass atrocities,” said USAID DRG Center Director Neil Levine. “We are pleased to provide funding to these winners who will improve communications with at-risk communities and enable organizations and activists to gather more information from hard-to-access areas.”
The new grants will support four projects: International Evidence Locker; Interactive Voice Response Junction; The Serval Project; and People’s Intelligence:
International Evidence Locker (IEL): IEL is a free, downloadable phone app that collects court-ready evidence while protecting witnesses. It enables a user to take a picture of an atrocity in progress, encrypt it, and send it instantaneously to a secure drop-box at a human rights organization for evidence storage or use in judicial proceedings. With their USAID grant, IEL will review the results of initial field tests conducted by staff of a high-profile human rights organization, then develop and deploy a second generation of IEL that responds to needs identified by frontline human rights defenders.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Junction: IVR Junction is a flexible voice-communication tool that allows users with limited connectivity or literacy to record and listen to posts, while the global community can access them online. Aditya Vashistha, a PhD student at the University of Washington and the creator of IVR Junction, will partner with two local organizations in sub-Saharan Africa to connect low-tech users and members of marginalized communities, such as refugees and asylum seekers.
Serval Project: This tool, deployed by Serval and the New Zealand Red Cross, offers software for smartphones that enables mobile communications that function without a phone tower during a disaster. Since the original Tech Challenge prize, the Serval Project has been developing Succinct Data software, which allows data that users enter into a smartphone to be compressed, and then transmitted affordably using cellular, SMS, or satellite connections. With the additional grant, Serval will further improve this prototype and deploy it with the New Zealand Red Cross in the field.
People’s Intelligence: This grant supports the further development of the Stichting People’s Intelligence method, making use of automated SMS or speak-to-tweet technologies to establish a conversation with victims and witnesses of mass atrocities. It will help them better document their stories, provide actionable information to victims and witnesses as well as relevant organizations, and assist with the verification of their stories by independent sources. This USAID grant will allow People’s Intelligence to convene a series of stakeholder consultations to better understand how the tool can be applied in the field.