Warzone bloggers: how IT is changing communication in conflict

The CARE Three Peaks Challenge, in association with Computer Weekly, is looking for IT teams who are keen to do something different.

The CARE Three Peaks Challenge, in association with Computer Weekly, is looking for IT teams who are keen to do something different.

Development charity CARE International is giving IT staff the opportunity to take on one of the UK's toughest physical challenges - climbing the UK's three highest mountains in 24 hours.

Computer Weekly has teamed up with the charity to find those willing to take on the task, and raise money for a good cause in the process.

Teams who are already signed up to the trek say training and fundraising for the event is fun and great for team building.

CARE International has good reason for increasing links with the IT community, as the charity extends its use of technology in its development and aid work.

War and blogging

Blogging is playing an increasingly important part in communication from warzones. The medium allows civilians and aid workers to tell the world what is going on in areas that journalists often cannot get to.

Jawad Harb works for CARE and lives in Rafah, Gaza in an apartment block with his wife and three children. He blogged throughout the recent conflict, and used his generator to power his internet connection when the electricity cut off. He says airstrikes were usually the spark that jumpstarted him to write the first words of a post, saying, "I wanted to use my voice to represent the voiceless people during the war. I wrote my first blog after a conversation I had with my 15-year-old daughter. I was trying to calm her down, and told her the situation was temporary. She replied, 'Dad, it's temporary forever.' After this, my blogging developed."

Harb used blogging to help him communicate the message that the war needed to end as "civilians, particularly innocent children, were being killed".

He says blogging from civilians plugs the gaps in communication that politicians often leave. "People here, in general, believe that politicians are not able to conduct the proper message to the world, and that blogs will do better in this regard than political debates."

The aid worker predicts that the increasing ubiquity of blogging means the medium will become more important in conflict. "I believe blogging will continue to be an important part of conflict it represents people's desires and ability to communicate. And the best part about blogging is that people always find someone who sums it up - whatever it is - better than they ever could."

Blogging's interactive style also helped Harb, who was one of just a handful of bloggers in Gaza who managed to tell the outside world what the conflict was like for them.

"The best part about blog writing is getting a reaction," he says. "I had aspirations when I started that the communication it enabled would flow both ways. I look for reaction and comments on my posts, and when I get them I feel I am doing something worthwhile."

Harb's blog attracted plenty of media attention and he was interviewed by The Guardian, The Washington Post, CNN and Time magazine.

He said the whole exercise helped him to get an idea of what people outside of Gaza felt, and gain emotional support.

Getting involved

The team at IT company Ixion Holdings has already signed up to support CARE's development work, and team leader Chris Adams said those involved are gaining a real sense of achievement in completing such a difficult challenge.

The team has weekly meetings to make sure everyone is training, and they already have £2000 towards their £6,000 fundraising target.

To raise the money, the team is asking the company's suppliers to visit its Just Giving page. It is also offering sponsorship opportunities, organising a raffle and a company bowling night to bring in funds.

He said, "It is a great opportunity to complete a well rounded team-building event, along with raising funds for charity."

The challenge

The 2009 CARE 3 Peaks Challenge will see teams taking on the three highest peaks in Scotland (Ben Nevis, 1,334m), England (Scafell Pike, 978m) and Wales (Snowdon, 1,085m) in the target time of 24 hours.

At the end of the weekend there will be a well-deserved celebratory dinner and awards, followed by a party for those who still have the energy. The event combines team-building among colleagues and networking across the industry with the overall aim of raising money for an important cause.

How to enter

The CARE 3 Peaks Challenge, scheduled for the weekend of 13-14 June 2009, is open exclusively to corporate teams of professionals from the IT sector. If you and your colleagues have what it takes, visit the CARE Challenge website to register your team. Alternatively, call the CARE Challenge team on 020 7934 9470.

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