Beginner's guide : What digital means and entails for the humanitarian sector?
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
I was discussing with one of my best friend about my blog and he asked me a very simple question : « what do you mean by digital » ? Very good question Dr Watson ! As an innovative (I believe) humanitarian practicionner, I worked on digital data collection using PDAs, Kobo and ODK, satellite imagery analysis, remote data collection (surveys by phone), mobile money transfers, biometric beneficiaries’registration and even a touch of artificial intelligence! But I'm a humanitarian practitioner, and not a geek from the Silicon Valley, and I decided to check on internet and well, it took me a bit of time to gather different pieces of information.
(IGI) The term « digital » represents technology that relies on the use of microprocessors; hence, computers and applications that are dependent on computers such as the Internet, as well as other devices such as video cameras, and mobile devices such as phones and personal-digital assistants (PDAs).
Digital entails the use of devices that enable access to cyberspace, the use of digital audio/video and information communications technology (ICT). The provision and the use of electronic technologies required to install, integrate, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and other technology systems. Digital technology also involves working principles, processes, and standards which apply to the technology industry.
In the humanitarian and development sector, you’ll find several definitions (but not sure there is a consensus here) such as « digital development », a barbaric acronym ICT4D (see below what it means) or related to several famous hashtags such as "Tech4good" or « Tech4Dev ».
As example, Plan International NGO defines Digital development or ICT4D (information and communication technology for development) to "describe the use and application of technology and digital tools in international development". The World Bank associates digital development and ICT. The principles for digital development initiative (the cornerstone of digital transformation in our sector) does not provide a specific definition of digital development but gives more specific definitions (digital economy, digital finance etc.) and is linking it to ICT and ICT4D.
Clearer now? Yes and No because I feel that the more I dig, the more I'm getting lost (remember, I'm a humanitarian practitioner). How do I put all the puzzle together? I made an attempt to create a diagram, WHAT DO YOU THINK ? Feel free to send me your feedbacks to improve or completly change my representation of digital development for our sector.