The Synergy of Digital communication in Humanitarian intervention.

Introduction:

Engaging with ‘international development’ is embedded in online culture, digital media and communication approaches of every actor and sector in the aid industry. From expanded global journalistic coverage, to all aspects of organizational communication and an active global online ‘sounding board’, international development relies on digital communication. The aim of this course was to explore ICT and new media for development and social change by reflecting on their integration into existing media and communication contexts and cultures as well as their changing tools and practices. In my report, I would try to show how my 4-blog post of digital humanitarianism are connected and integrated to digital media and communication approaches and to one another in the aid industry and international development. New media also reinforces various facets of peacebuilding and protest activities, from effective counter knowledge production to coordinating protest (Firchow et al. 2017, p. 18).

 

When a disaster occurs, it is critical for Humanitarian and Aid organisations to provide safe and sustainable communication streams that will help them make quick decisions. (Heeks.2017, p.305) During a disaster, access to right information is not always easily accessible; accessing the right information is vital for any humanitarian assistance. Therefore, digital communication can help these organisations and beneficiaries to share information quickly and work efficiently. Digital communication can make vital information available faster on the ground and remains a critical resource to meet the needs of people affected by crisis, which can save lives in emergencies.

 

My post have a focus on ‘actual’ representations of aid work, development campaigning, engagements with beneficiaries and global developments. The significant of communication with beneficiaries have grown significantly within the humanitarian sector. Digital communication is becoming more important than the traditional ways of communication. Digital communication during an outbreak of a disaster has prompted an upsurge in discussions, publications that will help beneficiaries and the public in keeping abreast with the current situation. Developments in digital technologies enable the tracking and delivery of in-kind aid and facilitate cash assistance programs in humanitarian settings and coordinate, collect and analyse data in crisis to enable a timely and appropriate response.

 

However, in order to properly identify beneficiaries take for example a case of a huge refugee influx, UNHCR will always register it beneficiaries using digital registration with methods like ProGress v4. UNHCR has therefore emphasized the importance of digital identification in providing inclusion for refugees in host states allowing refugees to contribute more to host communities, such as online education and livelihood opportunities. Thus, International humanitarian assistance remains a critical resource to meet the needs of people affected by crisis. Many humanitarian organisations and development agencies have recognized the importance of digital identity on forcibly displaced populations and statelessness, and in the context of Agenda 2030, have made efforts to collect, collate and analyse such information

( UNHCR ,2017 )

 

Digital communication can make vital information available faster on the ground, which can save lives in emergencies. Getting information that is more diverse faster during a crisis can often lead to better decision making. Leaders accelerate information gathering, using social media in order to help the affected in a timely manner (Heeks.2017,p.405). Crisis mapping is one common means of digital humanitarianism. For example, in the days following the Haiti earthquake, with the use of digital communication and social media like Facebook, volunteers and humanitarian professionals were able to deliver aid.  The Communication with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) was an important issue throughout the earthquake response.

However, in order to be able to support beneficiaries, right information needs to get to funders on time. How can this information be made available to the funders, beneficiaries, and prospect funders? This bring us to my next blog post of awareness campaigns, fund raising campaigns, capacity building and advocacy. Digital fundraising can be define as fundraising using digital technology, which usually means fundraising online. Humanitarian Aid Organisation and aids sectors receive a large part of their funding from government, foundation and individual giving and a large part is also raised via online which can be term digital fundraising. Once disaster hit, it takes a lot of preparation for humanitarian agency to raise funds to support intervention. Not only do they have to coordinate efforts to combat the disaster, they also have to fundraise, update the media about the pandemic and raise funds to intervene.

 

Types of digital fundraising

Direct mail: Organisations like UNICEF, UNHCR, IMO, Save the Children, IFRC and almost all Aids organisations are raising funds through on-line donations. Direct mail is a situation where Aids organisation mails out occasional fundraising appeals to their existing donors and to individuals in an effort to recruit new donors in other to enlist new donors. These mailings are usually co-branded and sent out to their members to invite them to become supporters.

 

Tele fund raising: Tele fundraising is a resource mobilization method being used by Aids organisations offices around the world to raise funds for their organisation. This process allows donors to make direct funding via a phone call by telling a fundraiser how much they want to donate by providing their credit card details. In 2014, UNHCR recruited over 285,000 new monthly regular donors and the number of individuals supporting UNHCR increased to over 960,000, contributing USD 137 million. All telephone conversations between fundraisers of the organisation and donors are kept confidential. With security measures like encryption and PCI compliance, supporters can give their details knowing that their info is in the right hands. UNHCR’s country offices has engaged with private sector fundraising hubs and national fundraising partners, embracing the “digital first” approach and setting the foundation for future growth. With international digital team support, country offices and national fundraising partners has improved their digital infrastructure using website and social media presence, online donation systems and email marketing platforms.

 

With the above mention points, it’s now very clear that digital communication help humanitarian aids workers to improve the quality of humanitarian response by maximising the amount of accurate and timely information available to humanitarian responders and crisis-affected populations through enhanced communication between them in an emergency. For example we have the (HPN) Humanitarian Practice Network an independent forum where field workers, managers and policymakers in the humanitarian sector share information, analysis and experience. To this respect, we can confidently say that digital communication has led to a kind of community of practice where humanitarian aids workers can have a central platform used to discriminate information and solve problems.

 

A misinterpretation or delay of information can cause grievance problem with humanitarian intervention. According to the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition (TEC), ‘poor information flow was undoubtedly the biggest source of dissatisfaction, anger and frustration among affected people’. The Haiti earthquake response on its part marked the first large-scale application of new technologies to enable dialogue between relief agencies and crisis-affected people with the use of mobile phone, digital and radio technologies, demanding new forms of collaboration between the local media, technology companies and international humanitarian organisations. The importance of communicating with crisis-affected populations a means of improving the quality and accountability of humanitarian assistance. Communicating with the people and getting them involve will give them a sense of belonging and will help the humanitarian agency concern to identify the problems of the beneficiaries and better serve them.

 

Communicating with the beneficiaries is not just as a human right and moral duty, but also a means to give practical information to crisis-affected populations and ensure that crisis-affected populations have access to information.(Maung et al., 2019) It gives them the opportunity to have a voice. Thus they are not just recipients but participants in the decision making process who can have the ability to talk back. If aid organisation communicate with the public and beneficiaries and do not have funds to support the beneficiaries then all their work will be a fiasco. In this light, the importance of digital fundraising cannot be over emphasis as digital fundraising allows donors to give quickly, easily, and securely.

With digital fundraising, humanitarian organisations are able to collect donations from across the country and around the world within a very short period. With access to the internet, donors and individual are able to donate and support fundraising activities to support an organisation meets its objectives. With digital fundraising, it is easy to set up Recurring Donations. In the past, donors who wanted to donate to organization on a regular basis had to mail in a check every month or year. However, with online giving, donors can easily set up recurring donations that are automatically made on a regular basis.

 

According to Denskus. T, digital technology, including social media, can support existing projects, amplify participation and engagement. However, to be able to make these engagements and support existing projects as projects need to be funded. Funders also need to be convinced that the money they raised is directed to support the projects they are supporting In order to be able to make digital contribution; there should be some kind of awareness raising campaigns that will act as a medium of outreach and visibility to a wider population. Here comes my fourth blog posts which I call it “awareness raising, a disguise for fundraising”. Digital campaign is an online marketing effort put forward by a companies and organisation to drive engagement, awareness, conversions, or to raise revenue. Organisations/companies uses social media platforms for contests and awareness campaigns to get to their audience and beneficiaries. Goodwill Ambassadors and supporters are some of the most recognizable public faces of Aids organisation that helps to bring out organization to every corner of the world through their influence through their campaigns and awareness raising.

Videos, pictures, newsletters, posters amongst others are widely used for awareness raising. All these tools are used as a means to raise the visibility of their organisation and a wider outreach. An example of an image campaign, which I used on my post, is that of Save the Children below. A Child can make a message stay longer in the memory of the reader and would reach out to a wider amount of the population better. In my opinion and understanding, the communication action in the image is to create awareness and encourage the reader to make a donation. The outbreak of the Covid 19 has raised panic and anxiety all over the world. There are a lot of tik tok, videos campaigns, posters and pictures in the form of awareness raising, communication mechanisms all in a bid to fundraise using the media. I my blog post, I also used a video from UNHCR as an example of an awareness raising campaign, which when given a deeper understanding could also be seen as a fundraising tool.   In the video, UNHCR representative is positioned to create awareness on what UNHCR is doing to help refugees. At the beginning of the video, she elucidated that UNHCR is working with partners to help refugees to get access to accessible water and hygiene. At the same time, an awareness chat with what to do to prevent Covid19 is being displayed at the back of the screen. She further talks about international solidarity so that refugees should not be left out-see details in my blog post.

 

However, by allowing two-way communication, social media enable people in remote or hard-to-reach areas to communicate with the world and share their situation. In this sense, it is faster and increases outreach, visibility and accountability. It also empowers people to amplify their voices, to retake control over the media coverage of the crises they face, instead of waiting for the media or first responders to reach them. Advances in advertising technologies enable not just NGO or international organisation but also enables small businesses and entrepreneurs to reach out to niche as well as mass audiences who will find their products useful and relevant.( Denskus, T., Papan, A. 2013,p.40) Digital and multiple communication channels thus helps to facilitate community engagement.

 

Whether it is during disasters or because of armed conflicts, we have seen how essential social media have become in emergencies. With the outbreak of the on-going COVID 19, we have seen how WHO and other organisation are using the social media to provide up-to-date information about the virus and what the world can do to mitigate the spread of the virus. Through the combined used of artificial intelligence, big data and social media, humanitarian organisations have significantly changed the way they collect information, analyse it and take action based on it. However, digital development is not much more than a set of idea-sweeping brushed into a single box. Digital communication has given beneficiaries the opportunity to decide for themselves. Humanitarian organisations use to pride themselves as being responsive to beneficiaries’ needs, and being accountable to them. However, today, with the use of new digital technology, there is a different set of tools to make that happen and it is taking some organisations by surprise.

 

On my personal reflection from the course, it has been a wonderful learning process for me. From the creation of the blog, posting on the blog and learning about the synergies of the features at the back end has been incredible. This is my first time getting involved into such an exercise and I have really learn a lot. The objectives of our blog was to show the importance of access to safe and sustainable communication streams in times of crisis , the importance of digital communication during a disaster and how international development largely depends on digital communication streams. I am proud to say we  meet those objectives and my blog post where more or less integrated with the themes of the course ICT4D, Aid Work and Communicating Development, New Media, Activism & Development and Social Media, datafication and  Development.  I have also deepened my understanding of the role of new media and ICT for development, and the significance of the digital revolution in a global perspective, with special regard to governance and civic participation. I now understand how new media and ICT are analysed and theorised in media and communication studies. On a professional level, this course has increase my ability to do advanced information retrieval on the internet and I now have the ability to present an academic work in written, oral and through weblogs.

 

According to Kathleen C. and Anuhea R (2010) technology has raised free speech to a whole new platform. Instead of reading opinions and propaganda through newspapers, posters, commercials, and even billboards; free speech is written and even texted on the internet all over the world. The coming of the social networking era has brought strength to the infinite access of free speech in our social environment ̈(Kathleen, C and Anuhea, R., 2010, 5). Information and communication technologies have transformed most aspects of human life over the last years. The potential that technologies can enable also means that those who do not have access to it are left relatively more disadvantaged than they were previously. If poverty is defined in a relative sense, digital technologies can thus be seen as increasing relative poverty. This is not to suggest abandoning attempts to use ICTs to contribute to development but it is to argue that at least as much attention needs to be paid to issues of inequality (SDG 10) as to the use of ICTs for economic growth. Instead, on focusing on ICT to foster development, aids organisation should also work with local communities to provide them with access to ICT.

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Denskus, T. 2019/2021: Social media and peacebuilding (Links to an external site.), in: Romaniuk, S.N., Thapa, M. and Péter Marton: The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Global Security Studies (Links to an external site.), London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

Heeks, R. 2017: Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) (Links to an external site.). Abingdon: Routledge.

Denskus, T., Papan, A. 2013: Reflexive engagements: the international development blogging evolution and its challenges. Preview the document, Development in Practice 23:4, 435-447.

Maung K. Sein, Devinder Thapa, Mathias Hatakka & Øystein Sæbø, 2019: A holistic perspective on the theoretical foundations for ICT4D research. Information Technology for Development, 25 (1), 7-25.

Kathleen C. and Anuhea R 2010: Social media IPACT AND implication

Lewis, D., Rodgers, D., Woolcock, M. 2013: Popular Representations of Development: Insights from Novels, Films, Television and Social Media, London: Routledge.

UNHCR; The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR PROJECTED GLOBAL RESETTLEMENT NEEDS: 24th Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement, GENEVA 25-26 June 2018¨. (Assessed 2020/03/10).

UNHCR, DATA TRANSFORMATION STRATEGY 2020-2025 Supporting protection and solutions, 2019. (Assessed 2020/03/19).

UNHCR. (n.d.). Initial Assessment Report: Protection Risks for Women and Children in the European Refugee and Migrant Crisis. Retrieved from https:// www.unhcr.org/569f8f419.pdf

UNHCR. (2018). Global Trends; Forced Displacement in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/ globaltrends2017/

UNHCR. (2016). Connecting Refugees; How Mobile and Internet Connectivity Can Improve Refugee Well-being and Transform Humanitarian Action. Retrieved from /https:// www.unhcr.org/5770d43c4.pdf

UNHCR (2003) HANDBOOK FOR REGISTRATION Procedures and Standards for Registration, Population Data Management and Documentation. (Assessed 2020/03/11).

https://www.alnap.org/system/files/content/resource/files/main/np74-infoasaid-paper.pdf

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *