Today I visited with Ellen Ensel, Anand Vaghese, and Christopher Neu at United States Institute of Peace. Yes, you are reading it right. You have heard a lot about Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, but never about Institute of Peace. And I am sorry to say that this Institute is more for studies than for action. It has very little funding, almost a fraction of rounding error in DoD budget, and currently in a very low key building on which the sign says ‘National Restaurants Association Building’.
Gloria Mark and I started discussing how could we use IT for Peace (IT4P). More we thought about it, more we got intrigued. Combination of mobile phones, social networks, games, and other emerging technology may help in educating children and adults in even remote rural parts of the developing as well as troubled world. When one looks at crimes and fanaticism, there is a strong correlation between education level and peace in a country. So if we can somehow help education — not just in the sense of ‘formal education’ — of masses in these places, we may help in the cause of IT4P. We decided to explore this further. Since I was going to be in NSF and Gloria knew Ellen, this trip was arranged.
The discussions with people from USIP were very encouraging. It will be great to start some concrete projects in this area. The topic is certainly of interest to everybody.