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COVID-19 and digital humanitarian action - Trends, risks and the path forward (2021)

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August 20, 2021

Overview

"The goal of this report is to look at how the Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation (M4H) portfolio shifted or maintained services in humanitarian contexts using mobile technology, and how  MNOs engaged in this process. It also explores current trends in digital humanitarian programming."

Findings

While it is too early to predict the long-term effects of the pandemic on programming, this  report sheds light on some short-term impacts and trends."

The report is divided into five main sections. It begins by outlining the impacts of COVID-19 on humanitarian operations, providing a brief overview of the challenges the humanitarian sector  has faced and early indications of impact in the future. It then delves into the research findings in five sections:

  1. Digital infrastructure looks at the critical role that mobile networks and digital infrastructure has played in the response to COVID-19, how MNOs have provided essential support and  how the humanitarian sector has come to rely on their services.
  2. New challenges, new digital channels explores emerging issues brought on by COVID-19 and how humanitarian organisations have used mobile technology to respond to challenges  ranging from health to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and protection (gender-based violence and child protection).
  3. Spotlight on mobile use cases features three ways mobile technology is being used in humanitarian contexts that have become particularly important during COVID-19: information as  aid, mobile money-enabled cash assistance and data collection and use.
  4. New and existing risks explores risks that have been worsened by COVID-19, including the exacerbation of the digital divide and data protection risks, and how humanitarian  organisations are working to address them.
  5. Lessons learned and looking ahead reflects on the lessons of the pandemic and considers the future and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the humanitarian sector. While it is still too  early to draw conclusions, three key early trends are evident:
    1. The humanitarian sector relies heavily on mobile technology, and as operations become even more digitised, it is unlikely to go back;
    2. The pandemic has exacerbated the risk of exclusion and the digital divide, and it is vital to consider the needs of marginalised communities; and
    3. Partnerships are key, including those that extend beyond the traditional humanitarian sector.
COVID-19 and digital humanitarian action - Trends, risks and the path forward (2021)

Summary

The goal of this report is to look at how the Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation (M4H) portfolio shifted or maintained services in humanitarian contexts using mobile technology, and how  MNOs engaged in this process. It also explores current trends in digital humanitarian programming.
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