Back in 2010, aid responders go to the reception center kiosk of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs every morning to avail of the latest humanitarian bulletin on the Haiti crisis. Today, they have another option.
This March, OCHA released the H.Kiosk, short for Humanitarian Kiosk. The application provides a snapshot of the humanitarian situation in a given emergency situation — funding needs, priority sectors, reference maps and contact information of numerous stakeholders — all available data enabled mobile phones.
The application is aimed at providing “very focused” content relevant to an emergency, as opposed to the multitude of information found online. Content can be updated multiple times in a day for sudden-onset emergency situations. Synced data can also be viewed offline.
The application now contains information on a wide range of countries, a number of them experiencing conflict and dire humanitarian situations. It is being used in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Mali, Mauritania, the occupied Palestinian territories, the Pacific, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Zimbabwe and various countries in West and Central Africa.
Such easy access is valuable to aid officials and disaster responders, who, according to Andrej Verity, “do not often have the time to sit down at a computer and browse through a website.”
Verity had thought of the idea back in 2010. After attending to his “very early morning” task of updating the information in OCHA’s kiosk, he thought: “Why can’t we provide this information onto people’s smart phones?” He devised the concept the following year.
Information uploaded in the app is also subject to regular internal clearance procedures. At present, OCHA field offices are “in charge” of adding data to the kiosk. An updated version of the app gives users an option to manually sync files.
The application is only currently available to Apple users, although there have been numerous requests for OCHA to also provide an Android version.
“As a small, innovation project in OCHA, the focus had to remain quite narrow at the beginning. With the iPad being the dominate tablet in the market at the time of the project’s conception and the U.N. Secretariat beginning to issue iPads to senior staff, a decision was made to build the first version to be iPhone/iPad compatible,” said Verity.
OCHA is discussing the idea of developing the application for other platforms. Verity said the body also hopes to make it available to other organizations in the future.
“Other organizations have inquired about the application […] about how they could create a similar application for their own purposes,” he said.
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