Decode Darfur

7 November, 2016

Published by Prishtina Insight

Young software engineers at Open Data Kosovo design a web platform with Amnesty International to research and campaign against human rights abuses in Darfur.

In January of this year, the Sudanese government launched a military campaign against militia groups in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur. Jebel Marra’s isolation and lack of access for journalists makes gathering evidence of the destruction extremely difficult, but according to Amnesty International, there is credible evidence that the government has used chemical weapons against the civilian population.

“The world has turned its eyes away from Darfur, but we need to bring this back to the attention of the international community,” declared Milena Marin, Amnesty’s senior innovations campaigner.

Marin and her colleagues have just launched a new campaign called Decode Darfur, which uses crowd-sourcing to locate previously unmapped villages in the Jebel Marra region.

Though Amnesty is able to purchase costly high-definition satellite imagery in order to document destruction, it first needs to know where the villages are located.

Volunteers from all over the world assist in mapping villages from generic satellite images, making it possible for Amnesty International to later discover potential targets of military attacks and verify the situation on the ground.

“Petitions are useful for lobbying and pressure governments, but their meaning has become diluted. People want to contribute in a more meaningful way,” said Marin, adding excitedly that since October 12, when the project was launched, tens of thousands of people joined in. The second phase of the project will involve volunteers comparing imagery of active villages to document destruction over time.

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