A News Reader and a Field Reporter
In 1996 VRA was founded to develop automated tools to process the increasing volumes of global electronic news feed that had become increasingly available. VRA was awarded two patents for its natural language processing technology in 2003 and in 2007. This proprietary technology is used in VRA’s Reader, a tool for automated encoding of events data from news reports.
VRA also led the development of an expanded protocol to guide the Reader. It is called Integrated Data for Events Analysis, or IDEA. The IDEA framework superseded the PANDA protocol, though the core premises about contentiousness and coerciveness from the PANDA project remain central to its operation. In this way the Reader and the IDEA framework work together to illuminate precursors to violence that are required to produce timely early warnings on violence.
VRA’s automated approach to events data development may be characterized as offering a view from above in that reporters for global news publishers typically covered large areas, often from national capitals or large cities. Late in the 1990s VRA was approached by Nongovernmental Organizations working in conflict areas that could not reply on global news to monitor conditions in the dangerous and/or isolated areas in which they worked to delivery humanitarian assistance. These organizations wanted a view from below to be integrated into their situational awareness efforts. In response VRA developed its first-generation of its field Reporter, a tool now in its 4th generation of world-wide deployment.
The Reporter was developed by VRA as a generic, web-based tool, with many of its parameters and settings user-specifiable. This customization feature has spawned a range of customized applications for VRA’s field Reporter, from monitoring staff security to auditing child protection protocols to assessing country risk. In addition, the Reporter’s standard features include both incident and situation reporting, an understanding at a glance dashboard and an analysis module, collectively supporting situational awareness. These tools also support export and report capabilities to integrate the Reporter’s field data with other tools.