Open Humanitarian Initiative: Improving Disaster Response

Last year was the costliest year in natural disasters that the world has ever seen. According to a report issued by global reinsurance firm Munich Re, world disasters in 2011 caused damages exceeding more than a third of a trillion dollars. And, experts at The World Bank predict that natural disasters will only get worse in the future, largely due to two powerful trends: burgeoning cities and a changing climate.

As the world prepares to cope with the high costs and other devastating effects of future earthquakes, tsunamis and more, it must find a better way to manage the chaotic environment that follows these disasters.

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Sense and Sensibility: Technical Solutions and Humanitarian Practitioners

I have a confession to make… I will never be a techie. I will never be fascinated by how an appliance works, never be thrilled by opening something to see how it is wired, and never be carried away by software codes or new, integrated solutions.

I am fascinated by the art of information management though: how data is collected, collated, analysed and processed into information. When it comes to emergency response, we always endeavour to improve the quality of information to make more qualified decisions in disasters. In a rapidly changing emergency environment, information is rendered useless for decision-making if not disseminated at the right time to the right recipient in the right format.

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Where Are They Now? Emmanuella Stimphat

Leading up to the graduation of NetHope Academy Haiti’s second class this week, we will be featuring a series of “Where Are They Now?” stories featuring NetHope Academy interns that graduated from the inaugural Haiti class last year. We will also feature a profile from a soon-to-be graduated intern in conclusion of our series. Our second narrative comes from Emmanuella Stimphat:

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Tech for a Brighter Future: The Humanitarian Cloud

This blog is part of a NetHub series that looks at technology trends that will help to shape a bright global future. Read more on the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting and NetHope here.

Cloud technology is revolutionizing how we are able to share, deploy and maintain solutions across the world. Cloud solutions are built on lean infrastructure that can be scaled up and down as needed, yet they require significantly less cost.

Cloud-based services power many of the successful ICT projects being used by the 34 humanitarian organizations that make up our membership.

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Tech for a Brighter Future: Youth with ICT Skills

This blog is part of a NetHub series that looks at technology trends that will help to shape a bright global future. Read more on the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting and NetHope here.

The Arab Spring taught us in 2011 that the youth bulge is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. In the Middle East 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25, which sociologists and demographers believe introduces incredible promise for the region’s development but also the potential for a missed opportunity with great consequence. The youth bulge is not just a regional challenge; it is problem plaguing most developing countries where educated youth struggle to find employment.

Countries should prioritize giving opportunities to young people because a disaffected youth could equate to the loss of fresh thinkers, innovation and heightened security risks for an emerging economy’s future.

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Tech for a Brighter Future: Mobile Money

This blog is part of a NetHub series that looks at technology trends that will help to shape a bright global future. Read more on the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting and NetHope here.

In the developing world, billions of dollars in cash is exchanged every month between governments, companies and donor agencies for various reasons: salary, social welfare payments, cash-for-work programs, emergency relief and money transfers. The majority of these payments are given in physical cash, but advancements in technology and network capabilities have introduced safer, speedier, more reliable and transparent ways for exchanging those funds.

Replacing physical cash payments with electronic payments provides improvements for governments and communities alike. For instance, when the Government of Afghanistan started paying government employees and police officers through mobile phones via a grant from USAID, it immediately cut out so much graft that some employees actually thought they were getting at 30 percent raise. Mobile money also makes it easier to tax the transactions and root out ‘ghost’ payrolls.

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Connecting the Most Marginalized and Those That Support Them

Visiting refugee “camps” is always a life changing experience.  In September my work with NetHope took me to the Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya. Over 200,000 refugees (mostly from Somalia) have lived in Dadaab camp since the early 1990’s.  In the last year, the camp size has grown to almost 500,000 refugees as the flight of Somalis to neighboring Kenya has accelerated due to the life threatening food crisis in the Horn of Africa. It is hard to think of these as “camps” because they are the middle of the desert, with no electricity and very limited clean water supply. There is almost nothing there that we would associate with a “camp.”

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IT empowerment: Providing a continuum of success for women and girls in the developing world

In the United States, the percentage of women in IT roles is less than 17%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Apply that to the developing world, and the numbers become staggering – in the wrong direction.

Several factors contribute to this imbalance. Access to practical technical training is limited for young women and girls; when a family can only spend so much on education, culture may push parents to support sons first.  Cultural dynamics that influence family decisions may also be present in the workplace, favoring men over women for technical jobs. If local IT departments have never hired a woman before, they may be reticent to do so now. So with a lack of in-country female IT professionals, there are limited recruits and few role models to inspire young women to pursue a career in technology. The small percentage of women who’ve managed to enter the field find themselves isolated, struggling to balance work with life and seeking a sense of community among like-minded professionals.

At NetHope, we cannot change cultural norms hindering women from entering and succeeding in IT in the developing world.  Nor would we want to.  But we can change the level of gender-based training, access to opportunity and professional support these women have – locally and globally.

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The Power of Partnership

As NetHope continues to grow, I commend the organization for the incredible impact it has made in humanitarian relief and development. Through its vision, strong leadership and unwavering commitment to developing strong partnerships, NetHope has inspired a whole new approach — to effect change through the impact of technology.

As part of our global commitment to corporate citizenship, Microsoft has been a long-time contributor to NGOs throughout the world. We strive to improve humanitarian and international development efforts through technology, the volunteer efforts of our employees and financial donations.

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What Gaming Means for Our Youth

As recent events in the Middle East have foretold – large scale democratic and social change can harness technology as a tool to give youth a voice and active role in their communities.  This phenomenon of wide scale change championed by youth will not just be a marker of the Arab Spring but one that will continue to have a wide effect on the future trajectory of the emerging and developing economies.

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