In today’s smartphone driven society, it is hard to believe that less than eight years ago Apple launched its now legendary App Store with only 500 available apps for download. Some of the trailblazing apps included: Super Monkey Ball, the first app to make use of the iPhone’s tilt controls, Enigmo, a physics-based puzzle game, and Ebay in all its mobile shopping glory. Today, though app themes like gaming, shopping, and networking remain fairly consistent at the top of the charts, application software and technology is rapidly expanding into social issues including human rights, climate change, politics, and the economy. Many global challenges can now be tackled head-on with apps containing everything from legislation required for international negotiations, to humanitarian technologies including crisis mapping, and security monitoring tools.
Since 2012, Lucid has been designing humanitarian apps with a focus on conflict aid and human rights. In January, a workshop addressing the issues of children and armed conflict, brought to light our app designed for NGO Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict. As a network of international non-governmental organizations, the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict dedicates effort to monitoring and protecting children in global war zones. By collecting and disseminating information on worldwide violations against children, the organization works to implement global child protection policies, directly with the UN Security Council.
An imperative element of Watchlist’s protocol includes ensuring policy makers of the UN Security Council are provided with key documents, and appropriate language on child protection issues during times of negotiation. In the past, existing resolutions and legislation surrounding the Children and Armed Conflict agenda required extensive research and preparation prior to negotiations. Today, with the user friendly Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict app, policy makers can quickly reference everything from the legal framework of the agenda, to the mandatory CAAC language used in Security Council resolutions. In addition, users involved in child protection in the field, including UN country teams or task forces, and NGO’s monitoring and reporting on violations, can use the app offline to quickly access documents and case advice without searching through lengthy reports.
The success of the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict app is based on the ability to provide all relevant child protection information without sacrificing accuracy. To ensure the app met such standards, the content was developed jointly by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, in consultation with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. The decision to create an app for such a purpose was based on the observation that officials were regularly checking their smartphones and tablets during the course of negotiations. This time consuming process of searching for key documents on child protection required a universal solution accepted by the masses. When designing the interface and software for the Watchlist app, the Lucid team implemented a layout and system that ensured the best user experience possible. Currently, the Watchlist app is the only tool directly providing relevant resources and guidance on children and armed conflict to policy-makers and child protection specialists. The app is updated biannually to ensure significant developments, such as new Security Council resolutions, are incorporated into the software.
Research shows the average person spends up 2.5 hours on digital devices everyday, and over 80% of that time in apps. For the purposes of humanitarian technologies, it is important to note, much of this use can be tracked to developing countries. From 2004 – 2015, the world has seen an increase of over 50% smartphone and Internet use in regions like Africa and the Middle East, and over 78% of the worlds mobile phone subscriptions are now linked to developing countries. To date, the Watchlist app has had over 4600 downloads in over 129 countries worldwide, with the bulk of those downloads associated with developing countries like Nigeria and Indonesia. With rising mobile and Internet usage worldwide, the Children and Armed Conflict app, created for advancing peace and security resolutions at the UN, is also acting as a tool for providing information directly to the children and communities being protected. Humanitarian apps and technologies are not only the most efficient way of educating officials and the general public, but are quickly becoming the most direct way of putting power into the hands of those who need it most.
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict app is available for download in English and French, with future updates available in Arabic. To learn more about the mission of the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict please visit: http://watchlist.org/.