Bringing peace – one SMS at a time!

Kashmir has been in a state of violence for almost two decades now. People, inside and outside Kashmir, have the desire to create conditions for peace and communal harmony but unfortunately there is still a lot to achieve. Of course, the ambition of a peaceful co-existence is difficult to accomplish but as its said, “from small beginnings come great things” – I want to ask the question, can we using technology make a small beginning with the dream of achieving great things! The answer is, perhaps, yes.

Sometime back I came across this excellent article titled, Marketing Peace using SMS Mobile Advertising: A New Approach to Conflict Prevention, by Patrick Meier and it has got me thinking!

The article gives an example of how mobile technology has been used to “catalyze behaviour change around peace and conflict issues.” Specifically, the article talks about PeaceTXT – a project to promote peace and communal understanding in Kenya using mobile SMS.

I googled and found that similar techniques have been used elsewhere, for example:

1) In partnership with CeaseFire SMS’es are being sent as reminders to people with an aim to interrupt gun violence in marginalised neighbourhoods in US

2) Moreover, multiple studies in public health domain bring to light the impact SMS reminders may have on behaviour change e.g., improving drug adherence behaviour among AIDS and TB patients in Africa and Asia.

Keeping these examples in mind, can we think about replicating something similar in Kashmir? In PeaceTXT, for example, a SMS was sent out to 10,000 subscribers saying, “A good leader initiates and encourages peace and development among all people and is not tribal. “ The aim with the SMS was to educate the people about good leadership and positively impact their understanding of good leaders. The response to such a campaign was quite positive.

Can we do such a campaign a Kashmir, for example, to improve the perception about the defence forces in Kashmir? And most importantly, will such an initiative have some positive impact? How do we decide and formulate the content of SMSes to be sent out? Will there be a need to modify the content of the messages for different reader demographics? Will we be able to gather government support and get required buy-in from the telecom companies to help us develop a financially sustainable model?

Perhaps, these are the question we may need to ask ourselves before we start thinking about implementing something similar in Kashmir. Of course, there will be detractors (including the cynic inside me!) who will question the inherent value of this initiative right from its outset, however, I will end this article with a quote from Gautam Buddha, “there are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.” So let’s start and see where it takes us!

About Ankit Sharma

Born in Kashmir, Alumni of London School of Economics, Currently working for the Royal Bank of Scotland, Living in London with absolute passion and hope in the user of Information Technology to solve social problems.
This entry was posted in Crisis Management, ICT4D, Kashmir. Bookmark the permalink.

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