UN Report: How to Improve Use of Information Technology in Humanitarian Context

A 2-day hackathon in Kenya, which aims to come up with technology solutions for crisis and disaster. Photo by: Erik Hersman / CC BY

Direct and effective collaboration between the international humanitarian system and the volunteer and technical communities is needed to fully take advantage of the various new information technologies available to disaster and humanitarian response operations, a new U.N.-backed study says.

Mobile phones, satellites and other types of information technologies have grown vital to the humanitarian aid community, particularly in allowing a swift response in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters and other emergencies, according to the study, which is also backed by the U.N. Foundation and Vodafone Foundation.

>> The Role of Technology in Humanitarian Response

But the study, dubbed “Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies,” adds that the current structure of the humanitarian aid community and its relationship with the volunteer and technical communities is not well-positioned to take full advantage of these new technologies.

The report outlines a five-prong approach to creating an effective interface between the two:

- Establish a neutral forum where areas of agreement and conflict between the international system and the volunteer and technical communities can be identified. - Create an innovation space where new practices and tools can be explored as experiments. - Put together a deployable field team with a mandate to deploy the best available practices and tools from the volunteer and technical communities.- Put a research and training consortium that will evaluate the work on the ground and train humanitarian workers and members of the volunteer and technical communities on the best practices for information management in the humanitarian context. - Develop a “clear operational interface” outlining ways of collaborating before and during emergencies.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.