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ICTs in Humanitarian Response: The Power of Networks

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In this blog

Oxfam publishes a report that gives a glimpse on the use of ICTs in humanitarian response.

The report details activities, outcomes of the Scaling Humanitarian ICTs Networks (SHINE) project.

Similarly e-Agriculture forum on ICTs and resilence provided use cases of ICTs in humanitarian situations in the agricultural domain


Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, diseases epidemics and man-made crises such as conflicts, war and socio-economuc shocks still bedevil communities and affect agricultural activities. Are ICTs a tool in a humanitarian response and how can they be applied, and with what expected challenges?

©OxfamA recent report by Oxfam holds that information and communication technologies are essential in delivery of humanitarian programmes. The report is based on the Scaling Humanitarian ICTs Network (SHINE) project funded by SIDA.

SHINE introduced tools such as mobile data collection, digital registrations and electronic voucher systems in five selected African countries - Ethiopia, DRC, Mali, Indonesia and Iraq. In such operating environments ICTs are poised to save time, money and accuracy.

Yet the proliferation of different ICT solutions and mushrooming application within the broader digital landscape (some developed by private sector while some by NGOs) has made it impossible or difficult for projects to choose a particular tool.

It is in this latter context that SHINE was purposefully designed to test support systems and to shape models for future adoption of ICTs in humanitarian context.


Outcomes of the Scaling Humanirarian ICTs Networks (SHINE)

The SHINE programme wasdesigned to embed ICTs within existing humanitarian activities rather than generating stand alone projects - covering on going humanitarian responses also preparedness and resilence building.

The logical framework outlines the following 5 outcomes:

Outcome Title
Outcome 1 Needs assessments are more timely, accurate and efficiently administered through mobile data collection tools
Outcome 2 Beneficiaries are more effectively registered and delivered essential services through mobile technology
Outcome 3 Monitoring of humanitarian activities is more effective, efficient and transparent through use of mobile data collection, promoting greater accountability
Outcome 4 Beneficiary accountability mechanisms are more effective and efficient through the use of information communications technologies
Outcome 5 Increased awareness by peer agencies, the humanitarian sector and donors about successful approaches to increase quality and effectiveness through ICTs.

 The following findings are highlighted in the report

  • ICTs add value to humanitarian inteventions - At the programming stage, it was established that the alignment of quality programmes and process are essential to allow the exploration of the enabling role of ICTs. ICTs have proven to add value - saving time and money. Other benefits highlighted include using data to inform response, security and accountability.
  • Challenges that lurk in using ICTs - These include the mismatch between the needs in reality and the selected tools. No single tool exists for multiple application in different context. Connectivity and infrastructure - in the focus area of the problems with connectivity, lack of networking infrastructure, and poor internet availability. 

SHINE: The power of networks

While SHINE was originally designed to be a network -fostering strong ownership and commitment by country focal points. The project established the value of networks, collaboration on the part of teams as having an impetus to sustainable design and development of ICTs.

It was established that when ICTs are introduced, their relevancy and appropriateness for the selected communities be explored beforehand. This report emphasized the fact that systems and processes needed to be mapped early to ensure cross cutting involvement of all stakeholders.


The use of ICTs in resilience 

Within the armbit if this subject, the e-Agriculture ran an online discussion on the use of ICTs for resilience.

FAO has used ICTs as a powerful tool to strengthen community preparedness and resilience to natural disasters, man-made crises and protracted crises. FAO's work in emergencies is detailed here.

FAO promotes the use of ICTs to reinforce the resilience capacity of agricultural communities in member countries. The following examples of ICT solutions were highlighted in the above mentioned forum

  • eLocust (a detection and early warning tool for Desert Locusts).  
  • SWALIM (FAO Somalia project on Water and Land Information Management – SWALIM – a breakthrough in mobile data gathering, remote monitoring and dynamic mapping). 
  • EMA-i (a moble App for timely animal disease reporting to enhance surveillance) 
  • Digniin - SMS-based flood alert in Somalia

ICTs can make the humanitarian response work lighter. 

Do you have use cases in agriculture where ICTs are applied in natural disasters, crises and protracted crises?  Reply to this blog with your contribution.


References

  1. O'DonnelI A.2017. ICTs in Humanitarian Response: A learning review of a three-year, five country programme. Oxfarm
  2. O' Donnell, A. 2017. Evolving ICTs in humanitarian : The power of networks
  3. ELRHA. Integrating Local Media and ICTs into Humanitarian Response in CAR
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