Food Security and the Data Revolution: Mobile Monitoring on the Humanitarian Front line

Our Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Guest Blog

26 August 2016 – Harvard’s Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) blog by Jean-Martin Bauer, Brittany Card & Alice Clough


Obtaining real-time and actionable information on the needs of affected populations has long been a priority for humanitarians; so keeping up with new technologies that could improve existing data collection systems is also a necessity. Innovations such as mobile phones and the Internet have already profoundly changed the nature of humanitarian work. They are proving to be faster and cheaper than legacy information systems, increasing the amount of information that decision makers have, and ultimately enabling them to save more lives.

However, what is truly transformative is their potential to reach previously ‘invisible’ populations. An estimated 3.2 billion people now have access to the Internet, and in developing countries more households have access to a mobile phone than clean water and electricity. New digital tools such as online messaging and social media are offering a participatory approach to data collection, energizing legacy monitoring systems. Rather than the traditional top down, institutional form of early warning that focuses on only collecting beneficiary information, they offer a more ‘democratic’ and citizen-led model (Mock Morrow and Papendieck). More vulnerable people are now able to make their voices heard, giving them the agency to make humanitarian systems more effective and suitable for their needs…

Read the full article here.

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