ICTs in Humanitarian Response: A learning review of a three-year, five-country programme

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Information Communications Technologies hold much promise for the delivery of humanitarian programmes. This learning report is based on a three-year programme – the Scaling Humanitarian ICTs Network (SHINE) – which introduced appropriate tools, such as mobile data collection, digital registrations and electronic voucher systems, in five countries representing varied contexts and humanitarian situations. SHINE set out to uncover the contribution ICTs can make to quality and efficiency of programming, exploring the conditions and operational environment that allow for the successful introduction of ICTs.

A critical line of inquiry within this learning review was to uncover the value in a centrally designed programme with accompanying support and resources to unlock learning across multiple contexts. It has uncovered the need to build a picture of general good practice principles while being mindful of appropriate design in the face of contextual nuances; the need to be driven by programme objectives viewing ICTs in their enabling role; and the importance of human processes as well as technical ones. The enthusiasm and energy of staff to take on ICTs is crucial to success where an effective team set-up involved programme and technical support from IS and/or MEAL. Coordination between Oxfam, partners and other agencies is a critical challenge moving forward, and there are important questions to ask about selection and interoperability of different tools, data and approaches to enable more joined-up ways of working. While the learning review revealed that for the most part tools were relevant to the context and the community perceived the technology positively, there were instances when it was important to recognize it might not be appropriate to introduce ICTs. An area for development is around how ICTs can enhance analysis of data to ensure that Oxfam can use insights effectively, harnessing the real-time opportunities presented by digitization.

Oxfam is increasingly considering ICTs as a fundamental component of humanitarian response in this Information Age. This review makes recommendations for the next steps and for sustainability in how Oxfam and other humanitarian actors can adopt good practice in the application of digital tools, while at the same time maintaining the important role that ongoing learning plays in reflecting and iterating to maximize the value on offer from ICTs.