OCHA Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien penned a short article on the website of the 2017 World Economic Forum discussing how the humanitarian community can use data to improve the lives of those affected by conflict and natural disaster.
“In the many crisis zones I have visited this year – from South Sudan to Yemen – I have been acutely aware of the vital role that sharing information plays in shaping an effective collective response.
Working together to develop a shared situational awareness means we can ascertain the protection priorities for women fleeing northern Bahr El Ghazal and the drivers of malnutrition for children in a specific governorate of Yemen. Sharing data among partners propels a healthy humanitarian ecosystem and without it, coordination and effective action is impossible.
But collecting, processing, analysing and disseminating this data is hugely challenging in crisis settings, which are marked by insecurity, unpredictability, remote access, fragile public services, and, in many cases, poor telecommunications and limited connectivity. It is also difficult given the complex and decentralized nature of the humanitarian system in which thousands of aid entities, from local NGOs and civil society groups to UN agencies, government and private sector partners, are all trying to help people in some of the most chaotic situations on earth.”