In humanitarian disasters, people affected by an unfolding tragedy need more than physical necessities: they also have an urgent need for information. From earthquakes to armed conflicts, survival can depend on knowing the answers to questions such as: Is it safe to go back home? Should I stay with my family or go elsewhere for help? What is the extent of the damage? Where can I get clean water and food? What are the symptoms of cholera? Where is the nearest health facility? Historically, little systematic attention has been given to information collecting and sharing, resulting in gaps in aid effectiveness and accountability. Natalie Chang from the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning has been working with Modi Labs and Captricity on the creation of a Humanitarian Data Toolkit to collect information during emergencies. The toolkit aims to both support better local humanitarian communications on the ground and build the global body of evidence around effective and efficient communication with affected populations. Understanding a local information ecosystem, and knowing how best to use and support it, is vital for humanitarian agencies to be more effective in the delivery of aid.
In this presentation, we will share our experience testing and using the Toolkit in Dadaab, Kenya to do an information needs assessment of the refugee community in 5 camps. We will show how technology can support the gathering of information even in remote areas, and how local knowledge provides valuable insights on local technology use and shapes research methodologies on the ground. We will illustrate how this technology has increased data quality and data collection speed, thereby also increasing the accuracy of the analysis and the learning curve for the people using it.