Review: Using Data Sharing to Improve Coordination in Peacebuilding: Report of a Workshop on Technology, Science, and Peacebuilding

4 Star, Civil Affairs, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Diplomacy, Information Operations, Intelligence (Public), Stabilization & Reconstruction, United Nations & NGOs
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Andrew Robertson and Steve Olson (eds.)

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent First Step, Four Disappointments, January 2, 2013

This is one of the more useful reports to come out of the US Institute of Peace and its collaborative effort with the National Academy of Engineering and I highly recommend it for either free reading online at the National Academies Press (individual) or for library purchase for the information, intelligence, diplomacy, civil-military, stabilization & reconstruction, and decision-support sections.

The goals are worthy but overly scientific & technical (the cultural part always comes first): to apply science and technology to the process of peacebuilding and stabilization; to promote systematic communications among organizations across political and other boundaries; and to apply science and technology to pressing conflict issues. La di dah. I just want to know if there is a dead donkey at the bottom of this particular well.

Secondary and equally ambitious goals that their current staffing model cannot support:
1. Adopt the agricultural extension services model to peacebuilding
2. Use data sharing to improve coordination in peacebuilding
3. Sense emerging conflicts (at least they realize the secret intelligence world does NOT do this)
4. Harness systems methods for delivery of peacebuilding services.

1. Data sharing requires working across a technology-culture divide
2. Information sharing requires building and maintaining trust
3. Information sharing requires linking civilian-military policy discussions to technology
4. Collaboration software needs to be aligned with user needs.

The UNITY system for information sharing described in the final chapter appears devoid of any understanding of the STRONG ANGEL and TOOZL endeavors, one of the best things DARPA has funded since the Internet, and the UNITY system as describes bears no resemblance–nor offers any credit to–the UnityNet and Synergy Strike Force prototyped in Afghanistan by my colleague Dr (MD) Dr. (PhD) Dave Warner.

Now here are the four disappointments

01 There is no literature review. I am certain the staff is aware of some of the books I list below, but the overall gestation of this book is immaculate conception, isolated from all that has come before. USIP needs to learn how to build on the work of others, not just drop kick a nugget into the open field.

02 This is a US and US-military centric view of information-sharing with NGOs, based on a very small sample of individuals, and the book suffers from being mostly an account of the give and take during the workshop, rather than being a broader structured study of requirements, obstacles, and solutions.

03 Neither USIP nor the National Academies listen very well. I was invited to brief the National Research Council in 1994 on the US Army multi-billion dollar communications plan, and pointed out that it was focused on self-generated secret communications and completely ignored the rest of the world and the need to share information both ways with the rest of the world. Similarly, USIP has ignored over two decades of advocacy on Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and the new meme since 2004, Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making (M4IS2).

04 The information technology portions are terribly weak, even ignorant. There is no understanding within this group of the urgency of moving to Open Source Everything (OSE), the other new meme in hybrid governance, and especially OpenBTS, Open Cloud, Open Spectrum, and Open Standards. The participants in the workshop represent organizations that are totally Industrial Era in mind-set, and not at all clued in to the eight tribes that must be able to share information at no cost: academic, civil society including labor and religion, commerce, government at all levels, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit. Perhaps a fourth disappointment, but I will include it here, is the absence of an analytic model for sharing informatoin. This group has not heard of the ten high-level threats to humanity, the twelve core policies, or the eight demographic challengers. They are at the very beginning of a path thtat most of us who pay attention in this field began walking 20 years ago.

The good news is that now that they are (perhaps) paying attention, the way is open for them to support the Open Source Agency (OSA) as a sister agency to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and help the Obama Administration change the peace information field rapidly and constructively.

Other books I recommend around this one:
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
Peacekeeping and Public Information: Caught in the Crossfire (Cass Series on Peacekeeping)
Promoting Peace with Information: Transparency as a Tool of Security Regimes
Exploring of Wireless Technology to Provide Information Sharing Among Military, United Nations and Civilian Organizations During Complex Humanitarian Emergencies and Peacekeeping Operations
Information Campaigns for Peace Operations
Policing the New World Disorder: Peace Operations and Public Security
Toward Responsibility in the New World Disorder: Challenges and Lessons of Peace Operations (Small Wars and Insurgencies)
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
Shake Hands With The Devil

I would urge the USIP leadership to do two things:

01) Fully familiaze themselves with the proposal being presented to Senators Kerry and Hagel this week, on the Open Source Agency (OSA) to be co-located with USIP and State on the South-Central Campus; and

02) Convene, this month, a round-table that is truly able to wrap its its minds around OSINT, OSE, and M4IS2, and get ready to rock and roll. Hybrid governance — and the harmonization of spending and behavior across all eight tribes — and perhaps even a United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Open-Source Decision-Support and a UN Open-Source Decision-Support Information Network (UNODIN) funded by the Nordic countries, CELAL and the new regional partnership that threw President Obama and the Trans-Pacific Partnership out of Asia, are all under discussion.

With this book USIP has started a conversation that has been heard by those who have ignored the pioneers for the past 20 years (including USIP pioneers such as Ambassador Bob Oakley as well as Ambassador Mark Palmer. The time has come to get serious about transforming how we do global to local security; we cannot afford what we have now; what we have now does not work; what we need can be created for half the cost of incremental adaptation; but first the incoming Secretaries of State and Defense — and the badly treated still important Ambassador Susan Rice — need to come together on the basics.

All in all the best book I could have read on the first day in the new year. I cannot say enough good things about National Academies Press. Their website has INTEGRITY and they are sharing and selling knowledge precisely as everyone else should be. They are the gold standard and I am moved to find one small piece of the US Government achieving perfection.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David Steele

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