ReliefWeb launches 4 new apps

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 11 October 2016

A smartphone displays different apps. Photo by:

The United Nations’ humanitarian information source on global crises and disasters has just rolled out a new feature — on mobile.

ReliefWeb, the specialized digital service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has launched four mobile apps, each catering to the specific interests of its users.

Humanitarians interested in the latest updates on the humanitarian situation in a given country, for example the ongoing crisis in Aleppo, Syria, could download the RW Headlines app. Those who are more interested in the status of humanitarian funding appeals meanwhile, or in accessing situational maps and infographics of a particular crisis might be more suited to download the RW Crises app.

The two other apps, RW Videos and RW Jobs, meanwhile, focus on two specific features of the platform: its jobs board and curated humanitarian videos.

Content on the apps can still be accessed through the ReliefWeb online platform, but the team behind their development hopes the apps will enable faster delivery of important information to ReliefWeb users and make the experience more personalized, allowing them to have more control over the content they are accessing from the service.

The main reason for the decision is largely driven by user information. In 2015, mobile visitors to ReliefWeb increased by 71 percent, according to Adrian Ciancio, product manager at the digital humanitarian information service.

“Although we have a mobile version of the website, we believe the apps allow us to package, curate [and] organize content in different ways to better serve the needs of our audience,” Ciancio told Devex.

The team gathered more than 200 users during beta testing, but they anticipate user feedback in the coming weeks and months will dictate additional features and improvements.

“We’ll do an evaluation of the impact and feedback received after the initial months … and base our future developments on user response,” Ciancio said.

This is not the first time OCHA has come out with an app for humanitarian content. In 2013, Devex reported about the Humanitarian Kiosk, which provides a snapshot of the humanitarian situation in a given country. The information from the Humanitarian Kiosk can be synced and viewed offline.

The apps, according to Ciancio, have a “much wider and more comprehensive” coverage than the Humanitarian Kiosk, and to some extent, they also have an offline viewing feature: Humanitarian reports can be saved and accessed later offline, for example. The first versions of the apps are more focused on content sharing, he noted. Full offline browsing and other features such as push notifications for situation report updates or jobs are in the pipeline for future versions.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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