More public-private collaboration needed during humanitarian crises: WEF

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Feb 15, 2017 (LBO) – Public-private collaboration in the humanitarian space is being discussed, as highlighted at the recently concluded World Economic Forum, with options mapped out for greater “digital humanitarianism.”

The humanitarian programme of the World Economic Forum, at the Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland last month, provided a platform to discuss several proposals.

“The world is witnessing new conflict dynamics that are challenging the way the humanitarian system is set up and it has become clear that no actor can meet these challenges alone; the private and public sectors are yet to really meet in the humanitarian space,” a WEF report on the Future of Humanitarian Responses states.

“In particular, there remains a trust deficit between the two sectors and reluctance of business to get involved in protracted crises.”

According to the report, the constraint is not the technology, but a number of legal and policy issues, especially the inability to share local data among actors.

This means engagement and inclusion of local communities needs to be more effectively brought into the design of data-driven solutions.

Actors on the ground have begun to use a range of emerging technologies, such as satellite imagery and participatory mapping, read-write web, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, crowdsourced translation, social media and mobile technology, all of which can help anticipate and respond to crises.

“Data is the new currency for humanitarian response,” said Elaine Weidman Grunewald, Senior Vice-President and Chief Sustainability Officer at Ericsson.

The notion of the “connected refugee” focuses the conversation further.

“Better connectivity has the potential to put crisis-affected people at the heart of humanitarian response. Connectivity for displaced persons is critical for staying in touch, ensuring identity, increasing use of cash or vouchers, (remote) and supporting education and two-way communication.”

“The risks of private sector data sharing therefore need to be more effectively understood and managed, while data sharing agreements should be agreed upon before a crisis.”

The report can be viewed here