By Lauren Bowen
Welcome to the NetHope family! It’s been quite a ride since you joined us at the 2015 Global Summit. How have you found your first month with us?
Thank you! Indeed, it’s been exciting and extremely engaging. We brought many from NRC to the 2015 Global Summit and came away buzzing with ideas and renewed enthusiasm for the tasks that await us in the future. Our first month has been busy with follow-ups and we are already testing some technology that we came across through NetHope. Though I must admit that we sort of started a bit earlier with the participation at one of the European Chapter meetings last summer. I think this was helpful in making even more of the Summit as we already knew a number of people and it all felt less intimidating.
Let's start with some introductions. Tell us a little bit about your organization - what you do and why.
NRC is the largest humanitarian organisation in Norway, established in 1946 to assist refugees in Europe after World War II. Today, we promote and protect the rights of refugees and people who have been displaced within their own country. We work through a three-pronged approach including advocacy; supporting UN agencies, governments and other institutions through expert deployment; and finally through direct programme activities which count for our largest part. We take action during situations of armed conflict and other contexts where our core competencies of shelter, WASH, education, food security, camp management and information, counseling and legal assistance add value.
How do you see technology shaping international development and conservation? How do you see your world changing because of it?
As the NRC Secretary General, Jan Egeland, said in his keynote at the Summit, we believe technology can enable better programming and amplify it so that ultimately we can reach more beneficiaries, more effectively. Technology is already changing the way we deliver assistance today through e-cash. In other cases it is bridging the distance between beneficiaries and humanitarian agencies, or allowing beneficiaries to find help beyond what we can deliver, opening up the flow of information and allowing for new decision-making. Information can flow faster, directly from those in need to those who are there to help and beyond. While that is the ultimate goal, we also aim to improve how NRC works internally through the use of technology. We believe it can enable us to leverage the power of data into real-time decision making.
What brought your organization to NetHope? What has been your motivation for joining?
I am not sure if I can pinpoint what exactly brought us here. I’d say it was a combination of different factors including a reorganization process, new leadership, making some important connections at the right moment and the desire to reach out to other organisations that face similar challenges in our sector. While NRC has been working with and benefitting from NetHope’s work in places like Dadaab, it took a little more effort to actually join. When it comes to what motivated us to take this step, I’d say the desire to improve ICT in NRC and break out of isolation. Now that we’ve joined and many within the ICT unit are starting to understand more of what NetHope is, we wish we’d taken this step before!
Looking forward, what does your organization hope to accomplish in the coming year?
We are a pretty large organisation and also pretty ambitious when setting goals, so there is much we want to accomplish in 2016; however there are some essential building blocks we must accomplish first. Having recently completed a reorganisation at Head Office, we are undergoing a similar process at the Regional and Country level and defining the ICT mandate at these levels is key. We are looking at increasing the numbers and capacity of our ICT staff, as well as connecting them across the 30 or so countries we work in, fostering learning, sharing and internal support mechanisms. Connecting our staff to other NetHope members in the respective countries and regions would add even more value.
Having grappled with poor connectivity issues, we are currently piloting Cisco Meraki technology to improve our understanding of current bandwidth use and what we can do about it. We are also undertaking the first steps in moving key services to the cloud, and thus both decreasing and changing our cost model for ICT service delivery. Transitioning to cloud successfully will determine our ability to enable our staff to work on digital platforms whilst on the move. We also want to take the first steps in making better use of our available information and ensure ownership of our key documents – spread today over a multitude of storage solutions.
Finally we must make better use of technology to deliver aid and therefore partner both internally with programmes and externally with other organisations and technology providers to do this.
From what we’ve seen so far, we believe that the experience and openness to share among the NetHope community can be an accelerator in how we innovate and move forward with our technology decisions, testing and implementation. While this is extremely promising, we also want to “give back” and actively participate in emerging work streams within NetHope: like information security and data protection – which are both extremely relevant to where we work and what we do.
For more information on the Norwegian Refugee Council and the amazing work they're doing worldwide, check out their website at www.nrc.no! Or, if you have interest in learning more about membership or what NetHope's about, feel free to explore more of our website here.