Building peace in the minds of men and women

Myanmar information managers learn about social media, big data and the crisis response

The ability to get and disseminate good, reliable data, especially in conflict or crisis-prone areas, is crucial for informed decision-making in development cooperation and aid efficiency, saving many lives. However, this is becoming increasingly challenging. In fast-developing Myanmar, for example, online and mobile media and information dissemination platforms are constantly evolving, producing increasing amounts of content.

Access to content and connectivity is also burgeoning, with new telcos entering the country promising upwards of 80% countrywide coverage in the next couple of years.

In light of these developments, an information management workshop was held in Yangon, Myanmar on 2 and 3 October for information management experts working in humanitarian operations, crisis management and development planning, management, monitoring and evaluation in Myanmar.

Organized by UNESCO, together with the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) and the ICT4Peace Foundation, and within the framework of the joint UNESCO-UNDP peace-building project in Myanmar, the workshop, led by ICT4Peace’s Sanjana Hattotuwa, gave participants a chance to learn about social media and data trends, the platforms available, their characteristics, and how to effectively leverage these for crisis information management. This included knowing how to use the tools in the collection, verification, and dissemination of information to improve situational awareness.

During the workshop, participants also discussed topics like the use of social media for voter education and election violence monitoring for the elections next year. The issue of hate speech – and verification of information – also received substantial interest from participants, given the nascent revolution in communications.

The learning objectives for this training were:

  • to be able to use new media tools to collect, analyse, present, verify and disseminate information;
  • to understand the impact new and web-based social media have on information management and     situational awareness;
  • to be aware of the added complexities that have arisen and are arising through the increased use of new media; and
  • to understand the nature of big and open data on the web and Internet, and how this information can be useful in crisis response and mitigation.

The effectiveness of the training was clearly reflected in the positive feedback received from participants, who not only found the workshop valuable, but also hoped that more of such sessions could be held in the future, demonstrating the importance placed on equipping information managers with the skills they need to deal with the ever-changing online media and information landscape.