Iraq + 2 more

Data collection, analysis and use in protracted humanitarian crises - Humanitarian Data Transparency Series: Brief 2 of 4

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Henry Lewis, Humanitarian Project Assistant, Publish What You Fund
Gary Forster, CEO, Publish What You Fund

Report purpose and scope

The purpose of this brief is to explore the needs and challenges associated with data collection, analysis, and use by humanitarian actors on the ground within protracted crises. The brief is based on data collected via an online survey and subsequent KIIs undertaken during field trips to Iraq (Kurdistan Region) and Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka). The brief will help inform the next steps for the Grand Bargain Transparency Workstream signatories, particularly around commitment 1.2: “Make use of appropriate data analysis, explaining the distinctiveness of activities, organisations, environments and circumstances”.

Specifically, the research team was looking to understand what roles different stakeholders play in each of the case study country responses, what kinds of decisions they have to make on a day-to-day basis, and what data and subsequent information products they need in order to make those decisions. As a result, this brief outlines what key stakeholders on the ground highlighted as needing to change to help improve information exchange within protracted humanitarian responses. As such, it focuses on issues of coordination, effective data sharing, information management functions (defined by Loffler and Klann (2008) as “the various stages of information processing from production to storage and retrieval to dissemination towards the better working of an organization”), roles and responsibilities with regard to data management, and how these are all impacting the quality of data being produced and shared within each of the case study country responses.

In many humanitarian settings, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) leads the coordination of the response and has a particular mandate around information management (IM), and provides assistance and IM services to all those involved in a response. UN OCHA also gathers data and shares information products to encourage their use among partners and other relevant organisations across the sector to inform activities. Some of the types of data collected and/or compiled during emergency response and used by a broad range of stakeholders on the ground include, among others:

  • Geospatial data – GPS locations, aerial images, satellite observations;

  • Operational data – data that informs humanitarian operations (e.g. funding flows, logistics information such as procurement processes, number of people affected, etc);

  • Survey and perception data – data collected directly from beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance to assess needs and concerns;

  • Administrative data – data collected from official government sources (e.g. administrative boundaries, etc);

  • Digital data – web-based portals, biometrics, SMS-based surveys, etc.

This is not a comprehensive list, but tries to cover a range of different data types generally collected to help inform the context, people affected and the response. To try to provide structure to collecting this data, UN OCHA and cluster leaders use the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC) which formalises needs assessments and response plans. Further, to try to align certain data types (administrative, boundary and population data) to help coordination in humanitarian responses, UN OCHA, at the global level, developed and then introduced the Common Operational Datasets (CODS), but according to a number of sources the challenge has been implementation at the field level. CODS are mainly used in outward-facing visual information products, such as maps and charts.

All this data, often collected and analysed through the humanitarian needs overview (HNO) process annually, with another analysis done in advance of the mid-year review, informs the development of the humanitarian response plan (HRP) for each country and funding levels dedicated to each response.

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