It’s estimated that in the aftermath of the 2007 Kenyan presidential elections, more than 1,000 people lost their lives in politically and ethnically-motivated violence. Communication technologies – and in particular mobile phones – played a key role in spreading hate messages and inflaming tensions within and between communities. Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K), a peace-building and civic education NGO, aims to turn the use of mobiles from a negative into a positive ahead of Kenya’s 2013 elections with their ground-breaking collaborative project, PeaceTXT.
PeaceTXT brings together a number of organisations from around the world to share experiences and skills in violence prevention and interruption, mobile technologies and community outreach. PeaceTXT is built on a violence interruption approach that has been used from Baltimore to Baghdad and has been proven to work through rigorous randomised control trials. PeaceTXT aims to use SMS to scale this model of violence interruption so that it can reach more people and, hopefully, help prevent another devastating outbreak of post-election violence. Targeted SMS will combine with intensive on-the-ground work by SNA-K’s existing peacebuilders and community leaders to target potential flashpoints of violence to de-escalate tensions and reduce the potential for conflict. SNA-K already has an impressive database of some 30,000 Kenyans who have signed up to receive civic education and violence reduction messages that they can pass on to their friends, families and neighbours.
The project leverages the experiences of a wide variety of organisations from the American violence prevention programme, CeaseFire, to MedicMobile, SNA-K and Ushahidi. The aim is to build a robust programme that combines decades of experience from a number of fields to build an approach capable of being replicated and scaled to other regions and countries by treating violence as a public health issue which spreads and infects communities and countries.
We’re delighted to announce that we have awarded SNA-K a grant of $18,158 to pay for a series of improvements to the SMS platform. These improvements will allow SNA-K staff to search and filter incoming texts by location, age of sender or other demographic information. That way, SNA-K staff will be able to target interventions depending on where they are most needed or to tailor messages to certain groups, such as young unemployed males. The added functionality will also allow staff to export data for offline access, to send SMS to multiple groups without sending the same message to the same person more than once (if they are members of more than one group) and intelligent filtering and automatic replies.
If successful, we feel that this model has great potential for scaling and replication. Around the world, communities regularly face the threat of violence – whether political, sectarian, religious or gangland – and efforts such as this hold out the hope that it can be stopped.