Big News! Four Tech Challenge Winners Earn Follow-on Grants from USAID


Photo Credit: IVR-Junction, Purushottam Singh Thakur

We are thrilled to report that four winners of the joint Humanity United-USAID Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention have won follow-on grants from USAID, to allow them to pilot and scale their innovations.


The winners of the additional USAID funding are: International Evidence Locker, IVR JunctionServal Project, and People’s Intelligence.


International Evidence Locker (IEL): IEL is a free, downloadable phone app that collects court-ready evidence while protecting witnesses. It enables a user to take a picture of an atrocity in progress, encrypt it, and send it instantaneously to a secure drop-box at a human rights organization for evidence storage or use in judicial proceedings. With their USAID grant, IEL will review the results of initial field tests conducted by staff of a high-profile human rights organization, then develop and deploy a second generation of IEL that responds to needs identified by frontline human rights defenders.


Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Junction: IVR Junction is a flexible voice-communication tool that allows users with limited connectivity or literacy to record and listen to posts, while the global community can access them online. Aditya Vashistha, a PhD student at the University of Washington and the creator of IVR Junction, will partner with two local organizations in sub-Saharan Africa to connect low-tech users and members of marginalized communities, such as refugees and asylum seekers.


Serval Project: This tool, deployed by the Serval Project (based at Flinders University) and the New Zealand Red Cross, offers software for smartphones that enables mobile communications that function without a phone tower during a disaster. Since the original Tech Challenge prize, the Serval Project has been developing Succinct Data software, which allows data that users enter into a smartphone to be compressed, and then transmitted affordably using cellular, SMS, or satellite connections. With the additional grant, Serval will further improve this prototype and deploy it with the New Zealand Red Cross in the field.


People’s Intelligence: This grant supports the further development of the Stichting People’s Intelligence method, making use of automated SMS or speak-to-tweet technologies to establish a conversation with victims and witnesses of mass atrocities. It will help them better document their stories, provide actionable information to victims and witnesses as well as relevant organizations, and assist with the verification of their stories by independent sources. This USAID grant will allow People’s Intelligence to convene a series of stakeholder consultations to better understand how the tool can be applied in the field.


In the fall of 2012, Humanity United and USAID launched the joint Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention, to help identify new technologies that could be used by human rights and humanitarian organizations and activists working to prevent mass atrocities.


The Tech Challenge comprised five separate sub-challenges, including new approaches to: i) identify spotlight and deter third-party enablers of atrocities, ii) enable on-the-ground documentation of atrocities, iii) forecast and potentially predict the outbreak of atrocities, iv) improve secure communications with at-risk communities, and v) enable NGOs and activists to gather more information from hard-to-access areas.


Overall, the Tech Challenge attracted 982 submissions across the five sub-challenges, resulting in 24 winners, including the four projects mentioned above. The full list of winners can be seen here.


And, please check back here for latest news and more updates about the progress of these follow-on grantees and other Tech Challenge winners.