Global Peace Women hosted an interactive webinar on April 23 with current and recent enrollees of the Global Peace Women Leadership Academy to take a close look at how digital technology and environments can be harnessed for peacebuilding in the home, schools, workplaces, societies and the world. "I hope each session ultimately helps you make a values connection to your family life, profession and projects,” said Dr. Kang, President of Global Peace Women.
Information and communication technological advances in the 21st century have made it a part of everyday life around the world. During COVID19, it became even more important, creating alternative ways to continue schooling and business, and also to stay connected to loved ones during lockdowns and isolation. But, like most tools, digital technology and environments can be used in positive and harmful ways. It has been used to spur conflict, but also foster peace.
Digital Environments for Peacebuilding at Home
Digital environments have fostered stronger, faster, and farther connections among family members. However, it has also brought on many challenges: social disconnect, emotional and verbal violence, consumption of problematic content, addiction, criminal activity and even physical issues. Discussions identified simple solutions to mitigating problems and capitalizing on the benefits like: clarifying appropriate purpose, time, protocols and responsibilities for safe and healthy use. “Honest communication is important, so problems and mistakes can be addressed,” said Jalia Muntu from Uganda.
Digital Environments for Peacebuilding at School
Digital environments have been hugely beneficial for expanding access to education while carrying challenges like lack of access to devices and data, and lack of responsibility in information production and consumption. “If a student doesn't know how to use the internet in a good way, it has a bad impact on their whole life,” observed Ellin Kustianasari from Indonesia. The webinar took a hard look at these problems to propose solutions and explore best practices that could ensure safe, productive and peaceful school environments. Efforts have been made to increase access. In Uganda, during the lockdowns they expanded platforms for education to include internet, radio and print and in India proposals have been made for “one-laptop-one-child”. With access, discussants strongly emphasized that digital literacy is crucial. Digital literacy includes knowing how to safely and responsibly evaluate, create, consume and share information in the digital environment.
Digital Environments for Peacebuilding at Work
“Technology has been a key agent of work, but it can also be the source of innovation and a platform for peacebuilding,” said Grace Mazambani from Zimbabwe. Digital technology has enhanced the workplace productivity, communication and connection, but it has also raised issues like communication etiquette, information overload, balancing online and off-line communication and workplace ergonomics. The webinar team shared ideas for adjusting workspaces to ensure long-term health and making considerations for team members during tech limitations to create safer and more peaceful workplaces.
Digital Environments for Peacebuilding in Society
The list of societal problems advanced through digital technology was sobering. Yet, "Human potential cannot be replaced by technology,” noted Beatriz Munhoz from Brazil. Webinar participants looked at ways that technology has been used effectively to spurr social transformation, expand access to education and information and amplify peacebuilding efforts like collecting granular and data to inform real-time response, foster international connections and conversations, disseminate crucial information and ideas and raise awareness.
Technology is a tool, concluded the webinar. It is only as helpful as the users who wield it. “We can utilize the digital positively or negatively. We can choose. That is why our values are very important,” closed Ms. Park, director of Family Volunteers for Peace, an initiative of Global Peace Women.