Doing more good: three trends tech companies should consider in supporting humanitarian response

Article by Jessie End: “On 6 February 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, leaving at least 56,000 dead and more than 20 million impacted. Since April, renewed conflict in Sudan has left hundreds of thousands displaced. Ukraine. COVID. Contemplating an increasingly complex and besieged humanitarian landscape, I asked our partners: how can the technology sector better meet these growing needs?

To mark World Humanitarian Day last month, here are three trends with which tech companies can align to ensure our work is doing the most good…

Climate change has been in the public narrative for decades. For much of that time it was the territory of environmental nonprofits. Today, it is recognised as an intersectional issue impacting the work of every humanitarian organisation. The effects of climate change on food security, livelihoods, migration and conflict requires organisations such as Mercy Corps and the International Committee of the Red Cross to incorporate mitigation, resilience and climate-savvy response across their programs.

Early warning systems (EWS) are a promising development in this area, and one well-aligned with the expertise of the tech sector. An effective climate early warning system addresses the complex network of factors contributing to and resulting from climate change. It provides event detection, analysis, prediction, communication and decision-making tools. An effective EWS includes the communities and sectors most at risk, incorporating all relevant risk factors, from geography to social vulnerabilities.

There are many ways for tech firms to engage with this work. Companies working on remote sensing technologies improve risk detection, as well as provide predictive modeling. Dataminr’s own AI platform detects the earliest signals of high-impact events and emerging risks from within publicly available data, including environmental sensors. Market insight platforms can lend their strengths to participatory mapping and data collection for climate risk analysis. And two-way, geolocated messaging can help with targeted dissemination of warnings to impacted communities, as well as with coordinating response efforts.

The key to success is integration. No single tech company can address all parts of a robust EWS, but working together and with partners like MIT’s CREWSnet we can build seamless systems that help humanitarian partners protect the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable…(More)”.