Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
August 22, 2012

In the Internet age, low-cost, high-tech tools can help civil society groups reach their targeted communities and make them safer. But in places like Guatemala, it can be a challenge to connect these easy-to-use tools to the people at the local level who can best use them. So on July 13 and 14, 2012, Guatemala hosted its first-ever TechCamp, bringing together more than 100 people from the civil society and technology worlds to share their challenges and to develop innovative solutions. Two representatives from the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), in partnership with one representative from eDiplomacy, were on hand to participate in this dynamic problem solving event.

The Department of State’s TechCamps help build digital literacy for civil society organizations by bringing in local and regional technology experts to show participants the power of leveraging low-cost, easy to implement technological solutions. The camps empower these organizations by providing immediate solutions to their problems and a network to rely upon long after the camp is over.

TechCamp Guatemala City was the first “Do it Yourself” TechCamp, where local participants, independent of State Department resources, applied the model to hold their own event in Guatemala City. The Camp focused on education, preventing violence, and providing security for at-risk groups. The participants represented over 80 civil society organizations that are now connected to technologists and one another through their TechCamp experience.

One group focused on providing collaborative information sharing platforms for a community interested in finding timely and accurate data on the levels of violence against women and youths. With help from technologists, the group decided to overcome the lack of information about the scale of the problem by using free mapping technologies (like Ushahidi), crowdsourcing, YouTube, and wikis.

CSO will use this experience to support future TechCamps in the region.