Lesson 09: Integrating new technologies I – Imagery & analysis

Summary

One of the critical components of a capability analysis of the EU’s Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding efforts involves the role of new technologies.  The fast pace of technological change and the increasingly wide range of technologies useful for civilian conflict prevention applications are very relevant to the EU-CIVCAP research agenda.  In fact, most EU-CIVCAP deliverables either touch upon or directly address these issues, and technological factors can be found in other general lessons generated from the very beginning of this project.  DL2.1, for example, notes the importance of ICT/Big Data for early warning/conflict analysis, while DL3.2 refers to a need to provide technical support across the EU external action machinery; these technology-related lessons identified appear elsewhere in this database (i.e., standing resources, mission support, training, coordination, concepts, and procedures).

However, some deliverables have also generated more specific lessons regarding technological capabilities.  During the first phase of EU-CIVCAP (2016) many of these appeared within DL3.1, in terms of raising awareness of new technologies through training, concepts, and procedures, as well as integrating various types of data/intelligence within the EU’s early warning system.  DL3.1 also focuses specifically on the changing capabilities of earth observation geospatial information, ICT/Big Data, analytical tools, and the specific role of the EU Satellite Centre, which should improve imagery-related intelligence to the EEAS, PSC, and other stakeholders.  Even so, a critical lesson here is that the EU still needs to balance the opportunities and limits/risks of these technologies and attempt to address those limits/risks using other capabilities (technological or otherwise) at its disposal.

For example, imagery-related shortcomings include: the fact that such technologies can detect only physical signs of change to a situation; the need for expert processing (whether human or automated) of imagery data to make it useful; the need for secure methods of communication to share the data; the potential for unintended or adverse consequences of certain technologies (such as intrusive surveillance drones); the need to comply with various regulatory authorities; and the vulnerability of these technologies to various countermeasures, such as jamming and physical attacks.

Similarly, complex analytical tools such as the Global Conflict Risk Index and the European Media Monitor are ‘passive’ instruments that rely on the principle of ‘data in, data out.’  This means that they might be subject to bias or distortion because the original source data are subject to various types of errors.  Thus, as with imagery analysis, the need for a human element to interpret such data sources before harmful errors spread across the EU’s institutional machinery becomes increasingly critical.


Recommendations

In addition to raising general awareness of and exploiting opportunities regarding new technologies, various EU stakeholders need to manage the specific technical limits and risks regarding the use of geospatial information, drones, social media, and other imagery, early warning, and conflict analysis tools.


Related Deliverables

dl_2-1DL 2.1: Procedures, Personnel and Technologies for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding: An Assessment of EU Member States’ Capabilities

Authors: De Zan, T., P. Tessari and B. Venturi
Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali

Published: 30 November 2016

[PDF, ~2.1MB; click to access]


dl_3-1DL 3.1: Report on Technological Shortcomings in Early Warning and Conflict Analysis

Authors: Berglund, J. and D. Bruckert
Institution: European Union Satellite Centre

Published: 30 January 2017

[PDF, ~1.5MB; click to access]


dl_3-2DL 3.2: The EU’s Capabilities for Conflict Prevention

Authors: Davis, L., N. Habbida and A. Penfrat
Institution: European Peacebuilding Liaison Office

Published: 30 January 2017

[PDF, ~1MB; click to access]