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Issue In Focus
THE SIGNAL PROGRAM ON HUMAN SECURITY AND TECHNOLOGY
The Signal Program on Human Security and Technology (Signal Program) was founded by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in 2012. Signal Program staff, fellows, and partners work to advance the safe, ethical, and effective use of information technologies by communities of practice during humanitarian and human rights emergencies.
The program addresses critical gaps in research and practice HHI encountered while designing and manging the pilot phase of the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) from December 2010 to the summer of 2012. Through the analysis of satellite imagery and open source reports from Sudan, SSP was a watershed moment in the use of remote sensing to monitor the human security of civilians during and armed conflict.
Major accomplishments so far include sharing the 2012 US Geospatial Intelligence Achievement Award and co-winning the 2013 USAID/Humanity United Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention.
The program's ongoing research and scholarship focuses on the following three areas:
Tools and Methods
Design and scientifically test tools and methods that remotely collect and analyze data about humanitarian emergencies;
Standards and Ethics
Help lead the development of technical standards and professional ethics for the responsible use of technology to assist disaster-affected populations;
Mass Atrocity Remote Sensing
And conduct retrospective analysis of satellite imagery and other related data to identify remotely observable forensic evidence of alleged mass atrocities.
This video, created by the Signal Program, uses DigitalGlobe imagery of Blue Nile, Sudan from September 2011 to highlight satellite imagery analysis methods. Signal imagery analyst Isaac Baker uses the measurements and shapes of observable objects to identify military vehicles and ordinance. This type of analysis is used to detect potential threats to civilian populations.
The Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has released its first study, Sudan: Anatomy of a Conflict.
This study is the first geospatial data-based history of a conflict created primarily through a fusion of remote sensing and previously public event reports. The researchers of the Signal Program spent many months cross-referencing and analyzing over 40,000 square kilometers of archival satellite imagery of Sudan with more than 2,000 published reports of incidents occurring between January 2011 and mid-2012.
Key findings of the study include evidence of the apparent intentional destruction of more than 2,000 civilian dwellings and other structures; the intentional targeting and destruction of four humanitarian facilities; identification of specific armed actors, units, and chains-of-command allegedly involved in specific attacks in Sudan; and evidence of the mass displacement of civilian populations.
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MAJOR PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
"Developing Ethical Guidelines for the Use of Digital Data in Civil Society" (Forthcoming) Hosted by Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University and Co-Sponsored by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the Brown Institute, Columbia University School of Journalism, September 2014
"Use of Sudan Armed Forces Videos in Support of Satellite Imagery Analysis" Carnegie Mellon University, August 2014
An overview of the presentation can be found here.
"Challenges and Opportunities: Humanitarian Applications of Remote Sensing" Humanitarian Innovation Conference at Oxford University, July 2014
"Current Challenges: Information Communication Technologies for Human Rights Documentation" Build Peace Conference, April 2014
"Problems from Hell, Solutions in the Heavens?: Identifying Obstacles and Opportunities for Employing Geospatial Technologies to Document and Mitigate Mass Atrocities" Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, October 2013
"GRID: A Methodology for Remote Corroboration of Alleged Mass Graves" University of Manchester, September 2013
"While We Watched: Assessing the Impact of the Satellite Sentinel Project" Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, July 2013
"Humanitarianism in the Networked Age: How Communication Techologies are Transforming Humanitarian Response" International Peace Institute and UNOCHA, April 2013
"Crisis Mapping Needs an Ethical Compass" Global Brief, February 6, 2012
A full list of Signal Program Publications and Presentations can be found here.
SIGNAL PROGRAM IN THE MEDIA
"Eyes on Disaster," Geospatial Intelligence Forum, July 8, 2014
Imagery Analysis Manager
SIGNAL PROGRAM FELLOWS
Michael Hughes, PhD Candidate, Brown University
Michael Hughes is a graduate student in computer science at Brown University, specializing in machine learning and computer vision. As a Harvard Humanitarian Initiative fellow, he applies computer vision algorithms to automate satellite image damage assessment for conflict-affected areas. Mike holds a M.S. in computer science from Brown and a B.S. from Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Class of 2010). He is gratefully supported by a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship.
Dr. Patrick Kroker
Dr. Patrick Kroker is a lawyer and researcher specialized in human rights and international criminal Law. As fellow with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Signal Program he examines the evidentiary value of remote-sensing analyses in international criminal trials. His research is funded by a postdoc-scholarship from the German government¹s Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Patrick is acting as pro-bono expert on international criminal Law for Amnesty International Germany. He formerly worked for victims' lawyers at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. He lectured at the Freie Universität Berlin and the China-EU School of Law in Beijing and worked as research associate for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, the Universität Hamburg and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Patrick holds a doctoral degree from the Universität Hamburg and law degrees from the University of Leipzig, Germany and Univerisdade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Portugal.