Tech Solutions That Improve Humanitarian Service Delivery

With natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Mexico and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria wreaking untold havoc, the question of how to improve humanitarian service delivery is all the more pertinent. Technology is quickly changing the way we respond to crises and will continue to transform our responses in the future.

According to the GSM Association, increased mobile connectivity is a lifeline that has made service delivery more efficient. Network operators can get in touch with anyone connected to a mobile device to warn them of incoming disasters and provide them with strategies to prepare for the worst. The rise of social media has given political leaders and news organizations similar powers to connect with their citizens and audiences.

In addition, mobile devices make humanitarian cash transfers easier—it is far more convenient and quicker to send digital money than cash—and improve access to energy. Especially in the developing world, many people live off the traditional “grid” but are covered by pay-as-you-go energy providers, who partner with mobile services, to ensure easy and orderly digital payments.

According to the World Economic Forum, robots are making a difference in how humanitarian aid is deployed, and they will likely do so to an even greater extent in the future. Certain areas become too dangerous during disasters for human responders to be able to assess needs or deliver aid, and robots (including drones) have the potential to mitigate that. Indeed, drones are currently being used, albeit in a limited manner.

With the number of people affected by humanitarian crises nearly doubling over the course of the past decade, technological solutions like these will be vital to minimizing the effects of the growing displacement crisis and the security risks and poverty it causes.

Gisli Rafn Olafsson believes one of the most important effects of technology on humanitarian service delivery is its potential to encourage a “bottom-up” approach that will soon replace the current, unwieldy “top-down” paradigm. With technology, the beneficiaries of humanitarian response can organize their own responses to wars and natural disasters rather than wait for help to arrive. A grassroots network is invariably the strongest tool and the best solution to improve humanitarian service delivery.

Chuck Hasenauer
Photo: Flickr

Freedom of the Press in Cambodia

Over the past few weeks, the freedom of the press in Cambodia has suffered significantly. The country normally displays an impressive ability to support unbiased news sources, but the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has recently directed a crackdown on opposing press organizations.

In anticipation of a threatening 2018 election, the government has shut down 19 radio stations and charged exorbitant taxes to other publications that do not support Hun Sen’s government. The U.S., European Union and the U.N. have all criticized the Cambodian government for its recent actions.

However, Hun Sen is empowered by President Trump’s attacks on free press and the current domestically-focused agenda, which has led to weak engagement with Southeast Asia. In recent years, social media has become a main source of news for Cambodians, and parties challenging the government have been able to use platforms such as Facebook to their advantage.

Social media use in Cambodia has surged dramatically since 2010, with the 2015 growth rate of Facebook users being 30 percent each year. Eight out of 10 of Cambodia’s most popular Facebook pages are political information sources, including news publications and political figures. Cambodians want personal connections with political figures, and thus value the opportunity to engage with candidates on Facebook. Another contributor to high political activity is the heated political climate which makes every issue into a political issue, according to deputy opposition leader Mu Sochua. Sochua believes that Facebook will be a crucial platform to communicate with Cambodians about her party’s values.

Hun Sen’s rival political candidate, Sam Rainsy, has accused Hun Sen of buying Facebook “likes.” The post landed him in prison for defamation, which is yet another example of the government suppressing the freedom of the press in Cambodia. Leaks revealing unflattering information about opposing parties is a common occurrence on political Facebook pages.

During the Arab Spring, social media proved to be a tool that allowed discontented citizens to organize and make their voices heard. In the week before Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraks resigned, tweets about politics increased from 2,300 to 230,000 per day. Videos featuring political protest or commentary went viral, building confidence in the peoples’ ability to organize to force the change they want to see.

Demands for political freedom on social media has inspired other nearby countries, sparking political discussion in the entire region. Government efforts to restrict discussion on social media has only fueled the change makers, since social media is much harder to control than traditional press organizations.

The desire for reform regarding freedom of the press must originate from the Cambodian people, and Facebook can be a tool used to amplify their voices. The Cambodians’ extensive involvement in politics on social media is a promising sign for their ability to come together to protect their political freedoms, even when the freedom of the press is being threatened.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

How to Solve World Hunger

In 2010, former World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran boldly stated, “We can end hunger. Many hungry nations have defeated hunger. It doesn’t require some new scientific breakthrough. It’s not rocket science.” Sheeran’s proposal on how to solve world hunger in 10 steps is still relevant today:

  1. Humanitarian action: Natural disaster impacts the world annually. According to World Vision, in 2015, the worst natural disasters recorded were (i) An earthquake — Nepal, (ii) A flood — Chennai, India, (iii) A heat wave — southern India, (iv) Typhoon and monsoon rains — Myanmar, Bangladesh and India (v) Floods — Malawi and Mozambique and (vi) A drought — Ethiopia. In 2016, the American Red Cross and other organizations are still providing direct relief for the survivors. Sheeran advocates for volunteerism in communities affected by natural disasters to help with relief and reduce world hunger.
  2. School meals: This is an affordable approach to promoting development and reducing malnutrition. Individuals can donate online to organizations that provide school meals or they can provide direct relief.
  3. Safety nets: A “safety net” is comparable to a backup plan for when natural disasters strike. For example, the Red Cross is considered a safety net based upon their annual direct relief efforts. Safety nets should be linked to schools and farmers in case of an emergency such as a famine or flood.
  4. Connect small farmers to markets: According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), small farmers produce 80 percent of the world’s food supply. However, the majority barely make enough income to survive. By connecting small farmers to markets, they can increase their income potential and learn best practices such as drip irrigation and soil tillage.
  5. Nourish children during their first 1,000 days: The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most important for development and growth. Nourishing children is an investment that can help to increase trade and expand job creation.
  6. Empower women: Women in South America and Asia are more likely to go hungry than men. When hunger affects women, hunger affects children. Women make up the majority of agricultural manual workers, therefore empowering women creates greater food security for the entire household.
  7. Technology revolution: Iraq refugees began to use text messages on mobile phones in 2010 as a means to get food by WFP food vouchers saving money and travel time. Now, refugees do not have to journey to a distribution center and return with over a month’s worth of food.
  8. Build resiliency: Hunger is highly correlated with disaster. According to the WFP, “It is essential to help build the resiliency of vulnerable communities so that when emergencies strike, they are strong enough to cope.” The organization provides disaster relief for over 80 million people in over 60 different countries.
  9. Make a difference as an individual: Social media is booming in today’s world. Anyone can help bring awareness to global hunger by accessing these tools. For example, people can tweet, Instagram or Facebook post about their favorite global poverty awareness organizations to get their friends to donate. Awareness is a powerful first step to solving world hunger.
  10. Show leadership: WFP honored President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a “Global Champion for the Fight Against Hunger” award. “President Lula has shown leadership in the fight against hunger by pushing the needs of the poor and the undernourished to the very top of the international agenda,” stated Sheeran.The above steps provide an excellent guideline on how to solve world hunger. The WFP continues to encourage individuals and organizations globally to take a stand now in order to end the hunger crisis for future generations.

  • Rachel Hutchinson


Etisalat Nigeria Fight Malaria

Etisalat Nigeria, a telecommunications company dedicated to providing stable and socially responsible service to Nigerians, has revealed plans for starting ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ in secondary schools around the country. This announcement took place at the World Malaria Day event on April 25, 2016.

Etisalat’s dedication to fighting Malaria in Nigeria, however, is not new. The company has already established relationships with communities and donated insecticide-treated malaria nets to local governments and schools. The ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ will continue Etisalat’s prior initiative that supported Student Leaders Against Malaria (SLAM) groups.

These new ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ will be pioneered by two of Etisalat’s adopted schools through their Adopt-A-School program. The company ‘adopts’ schools through a partnership with the Lagos state government in Nigeria to “bring about sustainable change and development.”

The Director of Regulatory and Corporate Social Responsibility, Ikenna Ikeme, noted that once the pilot program at Akande Dahunsi Memorial Junior and Senior Secondary school is complete, Etisalat “plan[s] to roll out subsequently to our other adopted schools.”

Ikeme also stressed the importance of involving the youth in efforts to eliminate Malaria in Nigeria and the impact that educating school-age children can have on creating “change in behavior in households.” These clubs will allow Etisalat to train students in utilizing technology and other resources to counter the spread of Malaria and for both personal and community-wide success.

Through participation in these clubs and the resources afforded to them, students will learn how to “implement malaria prevention programs in their various homes, surroundings and community at large” and can actively mobilize others to join the movement.

A final fascinating part of Etisalat’s plan for the ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ in secondary schools is the use of social media technology among participants to engage in and promote “malaria prevention messages.” By providing technological resources that allow for students to participate in a global conversation about eliminating Malaria, these clubs have the potential for not just a local impact, but a global one.

The initiative to involve youth in malaria prevention work reflects Etisalat’s larger mission to be a socially responsible company, as outlined on their home page. The company not only uses their technology and resources to lend a hand to local communities but also provides scholarships and career counseling to students. Etisalat also pursues initiatives to lower the maternal and infant mortality rate, the risk of Ebola, and the level of environmental degradation.

Now at the forefront of global news, Etisalat’s work of empowering individuals and communities through reliable access to crucial resources such as 3G data and wireless calling is gaining recognition as an admirable model for socially responsible business.

Kathleen Kelso

Viber Chat AppLast week, social media company Viber announced that it would be bringing the Viber chat app to areas of Africa and the Middle East with the help of 50 investors in the African market.

The availability of the app will allow for easier interactions between organizations and individuals, facilitating local conversation via a global platform.

Facebook reports that 100 million Africans have accessed its website since 2014, with over 80 percent of users on the mobile version. Viber’s utilization of the mobile platform could help users in untapped parts of Africa, particularly in the southern areas of the continent, gain access.

According to news outlet IT News Africa, the beta version of the Viber app was released in November of 2014, allowing individual users to have real-time conversations within the application.

“The Middle East and Africa are important markets for Viber, and we are pleased to welcome local influencers and brands to our Public Chats platform. We are sure they will enjoy chatting, commenting and debating live on this active social channel whilst sharing tips, news, and local content to our constantly connected mobile audience across the region,” said Viber CMO, Mark Hardy.

Viber is similar to other social media platforms such as Twitter, where users can follow specific chats and publicly and privately share multimedia, including texts, photos, audio, video, web links and geolocation.

Much like Facebook, Viber users can invite friends to follow specific Public Chats and use the search option to find friends, with whom chats can be accessed via customized URLs.

The social research organization, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), has found that having a mixed friendship network can reduce a person’s poverty levels by a third when compared to those outside of mixed networks.

This finding supports the idea that social isolation is both a cause and consequence of living in poverty. Developing technologies like Viber that allow social interaction on a local level can directly improve the social health of a community.

JRF also reports that the likelihood of being poor can also be reduced by having friends who are employed and live outside of one’s neighborhood. By bringing Viber’s Public Chat to more regions of Africa, individuals might have more of an ability to build these kinds of relationships.

In addition to social health, Viber’s trending conversations can be used to address pressing issues such as AIDs awareness and local government.

“Through the use of Viber Public Chats, I hope to bring together a group of people who have experiences to share with a young audience and discuss HIV knowledge, stigma and prevention and ultimately call on people to get tested,” said Cindy Pivacic, HIV awareness creator and Viber investment partner.

Another partner,, hopes to facilitate African conversation about current affairs and national events throughout the region.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Facebook, IT News Africa, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Viber
Photo: ITECH News Online

Internet CelebrityVideo may have killed the radio star, but increasingly, internet celebrities are supplanting traditional actors and actresses, even in charity drives. PewDiePie, TotalBiscuit, Nerdfighters and others have paved the way for social media celebrities to make an impact, but a new platform is set to take internet celebrity charity to the next level: Reelio Cares.

Reelio specializes in linking companies with Youtube stars to promote their brands, and Reelio Cares specializes in linking charities with social media influencers to promote their causes. CEO Pete Borum believes that the time has come for Reelio Cares, as many nonprofits have difficulty reaching their target audience via traditional methods like mail and television.

Already, online celebrities have become a force in charity work. In 2013, PewDiePie raised over $160,000 in just two weeks for Charity: Water, a nonprofit that specializes in providing clean drinking water to countries all over the earth. LoadingReadyRun has raised more than $450,000 for Child’s Play over several years. Child’s Play brings toys and games to sick children in hospitals worldwide.

Internet celebrity charity is advantageous to all parties involved. For nonprofits, it provides a free way to contact a young, engaged audience willing to give. For online stars, it lets them change the world in a positive way. According to one such star, woodworking sensation Steve Ramsey, “Many have huge audiences that they weren’t really expecting. They start to think ‘Do I want to just keep making videos or do I want to do something with those videos, with this audience and really use it for good?’”

Besides promoting charities, the videos also promote the online celebrity’s site. Reelio reports that videos with a positive, charitable message receive two-and-a-half times as many views as normal videos. This is because of the way these drives usually work.

For the number of views a video receives, the celebrity will donate an ever-increasing number of dollars to a cause. As such, subscribers are encouraged to share with their social network as much as possible. As more people see the video, they also donate their own money to the cause. In the end, the online celebrity only contributes a small portion directly to the charity. It’s the audience who contributes the lion’s share.

Demographically, the shift to internet celebrities makes sense for nonprofit charities. According to CNN in November 2015, teens spend roughly nine hours a day on social media. Advertising agencies such as BrightRoll report that the majority of their customers find online advertising to be at least as effective as television.

While it may be too soon for traditional celebrities to step aside, the time has come for them to share center stage with internet celebrities. Social media lets charitable organizations reach an audience that’s not only willing to give, but willing to share their message with as many people as possible. It lets them reach young people who are as familiar with Youtube sensations as they are with movie stars. As the information age advances, internet celebrity charity is destined to positively change the planet.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: CNN, Financial Times, Marketing Land, Reason Digital, Reelio
Photo: Google Images

According to the World Bank, as of 2012, 896 million people are living in extreme poverty or less than $1.90 a day. A staggering 77.8 percent of people in extreme poverty currently reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Holiday Christmas shoppers can find ways to help those living in poverty. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, the average American donation was $2,974 last year. For an average family of four, that number breaks down to about $743 per person.

Here are 12 charitable ideas for Christmas:

  1. Sign up for a site that gives part of the proceeds to charity. AmazonSmile is a great example. The e-commerce giant will donate 0.5 percent of eligible purchases to the customer’s chosen charity. The best part? There’s no extra charge to the customer.
  2. Enroll in a rewards credit card that “gives back.” Capital One offers a rewards donation option when a customer enrolls in their “No Hassle Giving” site. Customers can choose from up to 1.2 million charities and use their reward points to donate to their chosen charity.
  3. Do a one-time donation. Give a one-time donation without being obligated to contribute on a monthly basis. Many charities provide this option for contributors, like The Borgen Project.
  4. Donate shoes sitting in your closet. Have old shoes that are sitting in the closet? Donate them to Soles4Souls. Since 2006, the organization has “collected and distributed 26 million pairs of shoes to those in need in 127 countries around the world and all 50 states in the U.S.” Coats, shirts and pants are also important donations that can help those in need.
  5. Shop consciously. There are many charities that donate some, if not all of the proceeds to a certain charity or cause. A prime example is (RED) a campaign that is sponsored by ONE, an international advocacy organization started by Bono. ONE (RED) pairs with iconic brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Starbucks to create one-of-a-kind items that support HIV/AIDS grants in countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. The companies involved contribute 50 percent of the profits earned to the ONE (RED) campaign.Charitable_Ideas_for_Christmas
  6. Look for donation “widgets” or “buttons.” On some sites, donating is as simple as clicking a button. For example, The Hunger Site advertises a free “Click to Give” button. Notably, last year the organization’s “click button” funded 52.8 million cups of food.
  7. Volunteer. Options range from participating in a soup kitchen, donating professional resources such as writing or marketing skills or assisting in a project such as building a community school.
  8. Email congressional leaders. Writing to Congressional leadership is another way to get involved in helping out those in need. Since each and every email is tallied, a simple email addressed will help get key global poverty legislation on leaders’ radars.
  9. Give up coffee or snacks for a week and donate the money. A $5 drink every day during a normal workweek can set you back $25. Giving up that Grande Peppermint Mocha with soy milk, no whip may be hard at first, but that money can be put towards something like a mosquito net, life-saving medication or clean drinking water.
  10. Share on social media. Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly popular ways for people to share raise awareness about global poverty issues.
  11. Select “Charity Gift Cards”. TisBet capitalizes on the gift card model, but gives it a charity twist. The recipients of these gift cards get to choose which one of the 250 listed charities to spend the designated amount.
  12. Make use of matching donations. Some employers match employee donations, up to a certain dollar amount. Others even match volunteer hours or gifts from retirees, board members and even spouses.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: World Bank, National Philanthropic Trust, Amazon, Capital One, Soles 4 Souls, One, Greater Good, Chicago Tribune, TisBest, World Vision
Picture: Pixabay, Flickr


By the end of the year, the Millennial generation is projected to outgrow the Baby Boomer generation in the U.S., being predicted to grow to 75.3 million. Their large numbers will become crucial to helping end extreme poverty by 2030.

Since 1980, the world has made the unprecedented progress regarding extreme poverty–cutting extreme poverty in half from 43 percent in 1990 to fewer than 20 percent today.

Even with this upward progression, over 1 billion people worldwide suffer from extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 per day. To make steps toward ending extreme poverty by 2030, 188 countries agreed to the UN’s goals at the World Bank Meetings in 2013.

If Millennials around the world connect themselves through social media and other events, this goal will become possible. As the first generation to have full access to technology at a young age, Millennials can spark a conversation and voice their concerns via social media.

While social media is beneficial in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty, events and festivals are taking place around the country to get the generation involved in the project.

On April 10, 2014, Global Citizen partnered with the World Bank Youth Network to host End Poverty 2030: Millennials take on the challenge in Washington, D.C. The event focused on the important role Millennials play in the fight to stop extreme poverty, even featuring a short film created by award-winning film writer and director Richard Curtis.

Over 1,000 people, including Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, attended the event while thousands more watched the event online. During the event, Ki-moon had a few encouraging words for the generation.

“I know that your generation can break this vicious cycle of extreme poverty, and I count on your strong engagement,” Ki-moon said.

More awareness for extreme poverty can be found at the Global Citizens Festival on Sept. 26 in Central Park. The music festival will include superstars Pearl Jam, Beyoncé, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran, with more to be announced on the festival’s website.

This year in order to buy a ticket, potential buyers are encouraged to complete the Eight Global Steps before entering their name into a raffle system. Some of these steps include tweeting the UN’s Global Goals or signing a petition to bring awareness to the Global Food Security Act.

Since the festival’s inception in 2011, $1.3 billion has been raised to support extreme poverty.

As festivals and events continue to be organized and geared towards Millennials, there is hope to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Forbes, Global Citizen, Pew Research
Photo: Huffington Post

Humans_of New_York
The Humans of New York project continues to capture the hearts of nearly 15 million Facebook followers all over the world. The next stop on the project’s world tour is very timely in relation to extreme poverty.

A picture project that began in 2002, photographer Brandon Stanton wanted to show the world New York City through the eyes of the inhabitants and their real-life dilemmas.

After touring eleven countries last September to raise awareness regarding the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), Stanton visited Pakistan to shed light on the humans living in Pakistan.

What Stanton found within the small villages and towns of Pakistan was eye-opening for the Humans of New York readers. Similar to the project in New York, people in Pakistan have similar, everyday problems: contemplating the future, struggling to pay bills, and even a young boy from Hunza Valley, Pakistan giving the world lifelong advice.

Boy: “The most important thing about swimming is not to be afraid.”
Stanton: “What advice do you have to people who are afraid?”
Boy: “Just don’t be afraid. Or you’ll drown.”

Even micro fashion is found within a country that is plagued with constant war threats and terrorism; a country that is negatively stereotyped around the world.

“When there’s only room in the newspaper for a single column about Pakistan, it’s going to be filled with the most compelling story. And unfortunately, that tends to be the most violent story,” said Stanton.

While the Humans of Pakistan project has shown similarities to people residing in New York, Pakistan has developing world problems including struggling to provide and having access to bare necessities.

According to the most recent figures from the World Bank, 20 percent of Pakistanis live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 per day.

“I just found out we’ve been evicted. Right after you leave, I’m going to start packing up. I’ve got to find my family a new place to live by tonight,” said a Pakistanis woman.

Even though 93 percent of the country has access to electricity, frequent blackouts cause inconveniences for everyone. This causes difficulty to perform basic tasks after dark.

While problems are prevalent throughout Pakistan, Stanton hopes his trip to the country raises awareness about extreme poverty and shows there is more to Pakistan than terrorism and the 0.1 percent perceived to the world.

“You lose sight of the 99.99 percent of the world that’s not scary at all. And living in fear can be a dangerous thing. Because if we’re afraid of each other, we’ll never be able to work together to solve our common problems,” said Stanton.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Humans of New York, TakePart, The Guardian, The World Bank
Photo: Google Images

Celebrities are constantly in the public eye and every move they make, from where they ate breakfast to who they might be dating, is highlighted in the media. So, when celebrities use their voices to make a positive difference in the world, it does not go unnoticed and it has the power to bring on major change.

Earlier this summer, One Direction launched their action/1D campaign, as part of action/2015, a powerful movement that believes 2015 is the year of creating concrete plans to eradicate extreme poverty, promote justice and equality and fight climate change.

Action/1D encouraged the millions of One Direction fans around the world to submit videos of themselves describing the type of world they would like to live in, in alignment with these plans.

Two months and 80,000 submissions later, action/1D released “Dear World Leaders,” a unique and compelling film composed of young people from 172 countries explaining what they like about the world, but what needs to change.

Calling on international leaders to end extreme poverty, promote universal education, provide clean, safe water for all people and end world hunger, “Dear World Leaders” features today’s youth touching upon many of the Global Goals, a set of 17 initiatives that align with the action/2015 movement.

Action/1D and “Dear World Leaders” provided young people around the world with the opportunity to contribute to important global conversations and movements. The youth of today are the future of tomorrow, so it is inspiring to see how much they care about current events and improving the world.

Now, One Direction is promoting “Dear World Leaders” through social media and on their “On the Road Again” tour, while also encouraging the public to share the film and the hashtag #action1D on social media platforms. Already, #action1D has reached 2.5 billion hits and trended on Twitter for 11 hours after the initial launch of the project.

One Direction unites their harmonic voices to make an important change in the world and impose a lasting difference that will ultimately improve the quality of life for many people. In the public eye, they have the power to raise awareness and gain support in the fight against extreme global poverty.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Global Citizen, Look to the Stars 1 , Look to the Stars 2
Photo: Flickr