Over the next five years an unprecedented number of initiatives will coalesce, contributing to an extension of the reach of the Internet to the world’s most remote regions. These efforts largely build on a conception of the Internet and social media as ‘liberation technologies’ that can help people realize human rights, improve access to services or reduce corruption. However, there has been far less discussion about the impact of extending Internet access to conflict-affected regions where the state is weak or has limited reach.
The ConflictNET team will have the unique opportunity to follow, in real-time, ambitious efforts to extend the Internet to some of the world’s most challenging areas and ask difficult questions that are often overlooked. The central research question therefore asks: How does increased access to social media affect the balance between peace-building efforts and attempts to perpetuate violence in conflict-affected communities?
Nicole Stremlau, the principal investigator, received a European Research Council Starter Investigator Award (grant agreement n° 716686) for a five-year period. This grant allows a project of unprecedented scope, combining qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse the uses and impact of social media on people and communities affected by violent conflict. ConflictNET will focus on conflict in Africa, where Information and Communication Technologies have had an uneven diffusion. While social media have taken root among some communities, producing important political, social and economic effects, others, especially communities at conflict, have been marginalized, or, in a different fashion, fused traditional ways of communicating with new media. You can find more about the key research questions and project components here.
In addition to the project’s research components, ConflictNET is establishing the Social Media, Conflict and Migration Observatory as a unique platform to develop public and policy engagement and debate on critical issues related to social media, conflict, governance and migration. The Observatory feeds into the research and be a space to disseminate research findings. Please visit the news, events and outputs section to find out more about recent developments and publications. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to contact us.