Digital elements are everywhere along the ‘aid chain’. In this blog we focus on the advantages and disadvantages of using new technologies in humanitarian aid responses to crises situations. Why and how are we using new media and ICT, and at what risk?
- a rescue worker or concerned citizen who wants to understand how social media are changing the playing field of citizens, governments and NGOs?
- a computer specialist at a tech company who dreams of using your expertise to help people in need?
working for a local authority in a risk-prone area?
- a ComDev student with a full-time job and no time to read books?
Then you have come to the right place!
New technologies can be powerful tools in crises responses to natural disasters or rapid outbreaks of conflict. Most of the time, multiple crises happen at once. Natural disasters and refugee calamities are often intertwined with conflict. For example, the current situation in Chad where droughts, political instability and the threat of Boko Haram coincide is one of the world’s most complex humanitarian disasters. It is critical that humanitarian aid following natural disasters or during conflicts is organized fast, efficient and fairly.
The concept of ‘humanitarian space’ captures a physical location (where aid is given) but ideally should also be a neutral space where aid workers can work independently of any external political interests. Increasingly, however, this ‘humanitarian space’ extends into a digital space. New technologies, such as social media, have become part of the everyday practice of humanitarian aid workers.
New media and ICT can be of great help for example in raising awareness, fund raising, organising logistics, locating people in need and targeting relief aid where it is most needed. The Assessment Capacities Project ACAPS is researching and analyzing global crisis data to enable crisis responders to better understand how to address the world’s disasters. For the country of Chad for instance, they show dramatic figures including 127,000 Internally Displaced Peoples in the Lac region, over 400 000 Refugees and 4 million people are food insecure (data from 24/9/2018; can be found here).
But there is also a dark side to it which aid workers and society at large may not be aware of. The spread of false information, misuse of information, or compromising people’s privacy or safety are only some of the challenges that arise in relation to the use of ICT. Reclaiming ICT for Development (ICT4D) means to use it thoughtfully, by using it for the benefit of people while being aware of potential unwanted side effects.
But how exactly do you do this in a globally connected world with rapidly changing technical development… AND during a CRISIS (when you need to act quickly)?
Keep calm… and join us over the coming four weeks as we investigate the do’s and don’ts of ICT4D in conflict aid, disaster risk reduction and NGO campaigning for social change. Each week we will bring you fresh insights and report on new tools and experiences from all over the world.
Note: we posted on this blog intensively for four weeks in October, 2018, as part of an assignment. We intend to keep the blog alive but at a slower pace. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us!