Advancements in technology have made significant changes in the delivery of humanitarian assistance around the world. Science and technology have shown to dramatically improve disaster response planning and implementation.

  • Data collection: Developing a well-designed disaster response depends on the availability of real time and accurate data to analyze damages and needs of the population in crisis. Many organisations are now making use of the phones and tablets to collect data from the field. Similarly, in a humanitarian emergency, Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping can link and overlay critical information pertaining to conflict, food scarcities, displacement and mortality, and provide a rapid evaluation of the resources required to meet urgent needs in a crisis.
  • Early Warning: With people now having access to phones and internet in some of the remotest areas of the world, warning communities about potential disasters and advice on how to prepare for disasters has significantly improved and saving many lives. In the event of hurricane and flood forecasts, Governments often issue early warning and evacuation advices through mobile phones within seconds.
  • Biometric Systems: The use of biometric systems in refugee camps make it much easier for governments and humanitarian organisations to ease refugee management. It also contributes in building confidence across the matrix of government, management, staff, donors, implementing and operational partners, and refugees, while preserving the confidentiality and data protection of the beneficiaries.
Biometric identification, UNHCR Thailand

Biometric identification, UNHCR Thailand

  • Apps for Disaster Preparedness and Response: In the age of iphones and androids, humanitarian organisations are increasingly focusing on mobile applications. These mobile applications may be used by beneficiaries, or by own staff for e.g. for capacity building. Some examples of Apps include the First Aid App and Hazard App of the American Red Cross which are widely being used across different countries to build capacity of communities in responding to basic first aid issues in their homes, schools, or work places, as well as be informed about potential hazards and preparedness measures. These apps are available in different languages and are in line with specific local contexts of each country.

Despite the rise in use of technology, we continuously learn that what works in one place might not work in another or it might work for only a certain segment of the population in an area.  This might be due to various reasons; illiteracy, culture, limited access to technology solutions, or damage to technology infrastructure in a crisis zone. Therefore, any new system always works better when communities are taken in confidence and organisations conduct a thorough analysis of the capacity and resources needed to implement the technology as well as training needs to make sure communities understand how it will be used to gain maximum benefits.