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  • Nanthilde KAMARA

You are not a real humanitarian innovator if you do not know these buzzwords


This week, I am sharing with you the 10 buzzwords that any true humanitarian innovator needs to know if he or she wants to be taken seriously.


And for those of you who are wondering what is a humanitarian Innovator - it is not too late to read my post !


1. Automation




You think of a robot in a factory when you hear of automation? Yes, you’re (almost) right!


We speak of automation when a process or procedure is performed using technology with minimal human assistance. In other words, automation means using information technology or machines to take on repetitive processes and tasks, while freeing humans to do other things.


You can find a great example of automation (and robotics) in our sector with the use of robots to "automate" some activities or tasks in the demining process.

Another example is to “automate” basic data analyses once (digital) data are collected using real-time dashboards.


2. Big data



Big Data is a generic term referring to the large amounts of digital data continually generated by the global population. The speed and frequency by which data is produced and collected are staggering!


In 2020, 59 zetabytes of data (1 zetabyte equals 1 billion terabyte and 1 trillion gigabyte) were created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide - against 2 zetabytes in 2010. In 2024, it is estimated that 150 zetabytes will be generated!


In my area of work, the use of mobile technology for data collection and communication generates a great amount of data I need to treat (but just a small percentage of them are really analyzed): demographic and socio economic data, food consumption, topics you are listening etc. You multiply by the number of digital projects and the number of organizations, this is gigantic!!


3. Open data



Open Data refers to data that is free from copyright and can be shared freely in the public domain.


You can find open data platforms in our sector such as the humanitarian data exchange (HDX) which is an open platform for sharing data from different humanitarian contexts and organizations. Very recently, ACAPS started providing global humanitarian datasets for free, bravo!


A lot of food for thoughts when you are dealing with property rights in your daily job … .


4. Copyleft



Copyleft is a general method of making a program or any other work free or libre (of using, copying, distributing, studying, modifying and improving the work) and making all modified or extended versions of that program free or libre as well.


Copyleft is a system used to preserve the free use of a work but the author retains his property rights. There are no longer any property rights within the framework of the public domain.


There is a specific copyleft license for textual works: the GFDL (GNU Free documentation license).


What about considering the copyleft license for our consultants or researchers' pieces of work and for organization's reports?


5. Digitization





Digitization is simply the process of converting non-digital information into digital data. I wrote a more extensive article about the digital world.


I worked a lot on digitization of monitoring and evaluation systems, using mobile technology to collect data for example. Instead of:

1. Printing the questionnaires

2. Dispatching and delivering the questionnaires in the field,

3. Writing on the questionnaire with a pen(cil)

4. Bringing back the questionnaires to the office

5. Checking the quality of the data (and decipher surveyors’ writing)

6. Entering the data

7. Cleaning the data

8. AND proceed with the analysis


I used mobile technology, saving me time and money on the steps 2 to 6 and improving greatly data quality. Once the questionnaire is designed on a platform (let’s say Kobo):

1. Enumerators upload the questionnaire on their mobile phone (and the Kobo application if it was not done before)

2. They enter the data for each questionnaire directly on their mobile phone

3. They send the data to the Kobo platform when they have an internet connection

4. Database is available on real time and quality checks can be done every day

5. Once the survey is completed, you clean your database

6. And you proceed with the analysis


Do you see now the power of digitization?


6. Disruptive technology or innovation



A disruptive technology or innovation is coming from the business world.

It describes a process whereby a smaller or new company with fewer resources is able to challenge an established business, providing a service or a product to customers whose needs were unmet by the market.


In our sector, I would think first of cash based modality which completely changed our service delivery and promoted a human centered approach in our programme.

Technology led innovations such as biometric registration tools or mobile phones with their applications can also be considered as disruptive innovations.


Of course, these disruptive innovations need specific frameworks, rules, standards, norms and protocols to "do no harm" and respect humanitarian rights and principles! There is still a lot of work to do, especially with the acceleration in the use of technologies.


7. Human centered design


Believe it or not, a recent piece of research conducted by Elrha indicates that only a minority of humanitarian innovators consult with affected populations during their innovation processes!


In response to this situation, several organisations have been advocating for the use of human-centred design (HCD) in humanitarian innovation: bringing community participation into developing solutions, services or assistance for that community.


In other terms, designing programmes with people affected by distasters.


Euh, I thought this step was already integrated in our humanitarian programme cycle, at the design stage right?!



8. NBS


Have you ever heard of NBS or nature-based-solutions?


You can find lots of definitions and I share the definition of the European Commission.


Nature-based solutions are “Solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.”


Yes, this definition is very broad (like resilience or nexus) and no, this is not new! For those who spent time in Sahel in the 80s, you have heard of the zai technique to restore soils: this technique (as well as other techniques considered as NBS are well described by IFPRI.


But if this new buzzword can help us advocate for a total integration of environment in the humanitarian programming, I say YES to NBS!


9. Responsible Data (RD)



"Just because we can collect and use data in a certain way, doesn’t mean we should".


Responsible data means that this is our shared responsibility to answer to the social, legal, ethical and privacy challenges related to the use of data in our work.


The next post will be about responsible data so I keep more information and surprises for next week!


10. #Tech4good




You saw and you heard of #Tech4good everywhere, but what does it mean?


TECH4good is a concept developed by United Nations to use ICT to achieve the 17 SDGs designed by the United Nations.


All the rest, “responsible digital” or ”responsible technologies” are not originally included in the #Tech4good movement but many private companies are using it – are we already in the “good washing”??


For more buzzwords, you can read the dictionary of digital development ! https://digitalprinciples.org/digital-development-dictionary/


The post You are not a real humanitarian innovator if you do not know these buzzwordsappeared first on #Future4Change



#humanitarianinnovation #humanitarianaction #future4change #Tech4good #digitization #automation #copyleft #opendata #responsibledata #NBS #humancentreddesign #bigdata

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