As digital technologies become more and more accessible, international humanitarian organizations continue to seek new ways of including digital tools in their programming. Today, more communities around the globe are connected, and underserved populations are reached in a way that had not been possible before.
From mobile technology to social media, from drones to artificial intelligence, Internews’ approach to technology is based on the 9 Principles for Digital Development, living guidelines that are designed to help integrate best practices into technology-enabled programs. They include guidance for every phase of the project life cycle, and they are part of an ongoing effort among development practitioners to share knowledge and support continuous learning. The Digital Principles were created in a community-driven effort, the result of many lessons learned through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in development projects.
Learn more about Internews’ use of technology in our humanitarian projects below.
HAITI HUMANITARIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO REACH AFFECTED COMMUNITIES WHERE THEY ARE (2016-2017)
The Haiti Humanitarian Information Service (HIS) was a UKAID funded project launched in October 2016 to respond to the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. The goal was to improve the quality of timely and actionable information in Haitian communities affected by the hurricane in order to reduce their vulnerability, improve protection outcomes and promote accountability in the response. Internews worked with local media to provide technical assistance for the rehabilitation of local radio stations. As part of the project Internews worked with a blogger site, called Aiybo Post, and recruited 7 Haitian bloggers, to work on a rumour tracking mechanism that used video to provide youth in the country with verified and targeted information about the response.
The Haiti HIS project was only deployed as emergency response and was closed after 4 months. Over the course of the project Internews reached over 400,000 people with relevant information in Haiti.
NEWS THAT MOVES
USING SOCIAL MEDIA, VIDEO AND MOBILE APPS TO COMMUNICATE WITH REFUGEES IN GREECE (2015-2017)
The Mediterranean feedback and rumour tracker mechanism was a project that collected all of the questions, feedback and rumours among refugees passing through Europe to be able to provide them with the information they needed to access services and protection mechanisms. By identifying misinformation and important information gaps and responding to them with relevant, factual information, News That Moves kept the refugee population at the forefront of Internews’ communication response. The News That Moves project used Facebook pages and mobile apps like Telegram and Whatsapp to create two-way communication systems with communities on the move. News That Moves was then able to provide refugees with the right information, in the right format, in the right language and at the right time.
The News That Moves project ran for over 2 years and was closed in 2017. The project reached on average 45,000 people a month with its online channels and 20,000 a month with its offline channels. More than 80% of the migrants that passed through Greece during the period from 2015 to 2017 used or access Internews produced information.
CRISIS MAPPING IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Internews released a crisis map for the Central African Republic (CAR) that displayed, on a daily basis, humanitarian information collected from across the country by local journalists from Internews’ partner, the Association of Journalists for Human Rights (RJDH). The map, originally created in 2012, was developed under Internews’ project – “Support to local media to provide information to the most vulnerable in the Central African Republic,” – and was available in French and English. The Crisis Map also allowed users to seamlessly compare the number of reports on needs and the number of reports on the response provided, providing a quick snapshot of gaps and challenges in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the local population. The goal of the map was to help humanitarian organizations better plan and focus Communications with Communities (CwC) efforts, and the humanitarian response. The map was also useful for the international community, donors and the diaspora to get more information about the humanitarian situation in the country in real time and directly from the primary source, local journalists.
The project was set up in 2012 and continued for another 4 years after its initial funding. It was closed in 2016 due to extreme problems with electricity and internet in the country following civil unrest.
INFORMATION SAVES LIVES
RUMOUR TRACKING VIA SMS IN LIBERIA (2015)
In partnership with the Liberian National Red Cross Society, UNICEF and Project Concern International, Internews developed a simple but critical new tool. DeySay SMS (“Dey Say” refers to how people speak about rumours in Liberian English), to detect and manage rumours in as close to real-time as possible. DeySay started with an SMS short code, provided by UNICEF free of charge to hundreds of health workers, NGOs and volunteers on the ground throughout Liberia. When anyone connected to the system became aware of a rumour, they texted it via the short code to a central coordination hub in Monrovia, that received it through the RapidPro dashboard. The information was then collected, analyzed for trends, and disseminated to local media partners in the field with details about the rumour so they could stop its spread. Once the system was fully functional, aid workers and social mobilizers in the relevant regions were put on alert so they could go door-to-door to calm anxieties and correct misinformation. In conjunction with the rapid response system, DeySay also produced a weekly newsletter for local media throughout the country and partners on the ground. The newsletter highlighted trends in rumours and their geographic locations, and helped identify the most critical rumours at any given time. The newsletter also offered insights for local media into information gaps and challenges around Ebola and health reporting.
The Rumour Tracking Mechanism has become a standard methodology of the Internews HIS framework, and since Liberia has been deployed in Greece (using also Facebook, Whatapp, Telegram and the News That Moves website); in Haiti (using videos; Facebook and the local blog Aiybo Post); Nepal (using SMS and voice messages) and DRC.
HUMANITARIAN INFORMATION DASHBOARD
The Humanitarian Information Dashboard (HID) was first conceived in Liberia, as a result of the Internews response to the Ebola crisis. Funded by Global Giving and created by Aptivate, the HID was created to support Internews’ belief that information is an essential part of humanitarian relief and helps humanitarians respond to issues of information overload during a time of crisis. It also increases the effectiveness of field interventions and improves the impact of the work that Internews does. The platform aggregates feedback from affected communities giving humanitarian responders unprecedented insight into community information needs, allowing them to make informed decisions that save lives.
GAZA HUMANITARIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
CLOSING THE FEEDBACK LOOP IN SMS (2014)
Across Gaza, weeks of conflict in 2014 left roads and buildings heavily damaged—making it difficult for families to get key information about aid and security. To help bridge these information gaps, the Internews-led Gaza Humanitarian Information Service produced a live daily radio program with useful, actionable humanitarian “news-you-can-use” and timely updates with details on aid distribution. Crucially, the service strengthened two-way communication between communities and aid providers—through mobile data collection and listener polling led by Souktel, which let Gazans give direct feedback on their urgent aid needs. By partnering with Souktel and nine media partners located in Gaza and the West Bank, Internews was immediately able to reach close to 95% of Gaza’s population via mobile and radio—underscoring the power of basic, accessible technology to support emergency response at scale.
The project was a 3-month emergency response project only, in support of the existing local media in country. The network of radio stations continued to work together and used what they learned from this project to provide information about the reconstruction process, the services available during the early recovery phase and transparency and accountability.
Read more about the Gaza Humanitarian Information Service Project:
- In Gaza, Souktel Partners with Internews To Link Families with Aid, Via Mobile And Radio
- Internews & Souktel Launch Digital Platform to Boost Community-Led Palestinian Media
DADAAB HUMANITARIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
HUMANITARIAN INFORMATION VIA MOBILE AND RADIO (2013)
In Dadaab, Kenya, Internews set up a Humanitarian Information Service (HIS) aimed at addressing the information needs of the refugee population through empowering local journalists to report on the issues relevant to their communities. The project also created a platform for feedback with humanitarian stakeholders in the Dadaab camps. Through a partnership with Souktel, the HIS was able to send and receive bulk SMS to directly communicate with local communities, feeding their questions and opinions into the refugee radio covering the camps.
Internews partnership with Souktel in Dadaab was then replicated in Mali and Gaza.
EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION RADIO
DIY RADIO (2013)
“Emergency Communication Radio”, also called DIY Radio, was a pilot project aimed attesting the possibility of creating a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) radio using existing equipment easily available in a normal store or market. The underlying idea was to see if, in case of emergency, it would be possible to create and build a transmitter to provide important information to the local population. The prototype was successful, and allowed journalists to broadcast a maximum of 100 meters (with no extra antenna) using a simple MP3 reader.
The Emergency Communication radio project developed videos and written documents to share knowledge on how to build this simple system by buying common tools available on the market. The videos has been viewed and shared by more than 20,000 people.
COMMUNICATION FOR PEACE-BUILDING IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC:
The Internews Mobile2Radio project “Connecting Local Media, Humanitarian Actors and Communities Through Innovative Communication Flows”, was part of the United States Institute for Peace “Communication for Peace-building” priority grant program (CfP) . The project aimed at supporting innovative practice and research designed to increase understanding of how communication flows and how communication technology can best be leveraged to improve the practice of peace-building to create a reliable, predictable and sustainable system. Internews set up two SMS systems, managed by local radio stations, to allow local media to gather, in real time, first-hand information from affected populations and channel it to the humanitarian community while establishing a complimentary two-way communication flow with communities affected by conflict and violence.
Both radios in Bambari and Obo used the mobile system set up for this project for years after the end of the funding. The lessons learned from this project were then used the following year to expand the mobile system to involve the entire Network of Journalists for Human Rights, comprising more than 12 community radio stations across the country.
MESH CASTING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS:
USING MESH NETWORK TECHNOLOGY TO REPORT HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS (2011)
This pilot project, implemented in Nigeria, was done in collaboration with the Centre for Environment Human Rights and Development,a rural-based and rural-focused non-profit organization working on the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The project was implemented to support the creation of a human rights monitoring system based on the use of the mesh network technology, that would allow human rights monitors to exchange data over phones even in locations where there is not a mobile network active.
Due to the development of the technology and the alternatives available, Internews has not used yet this technology in other projects.
KITA HUDE YEE:
TRACKING HUMAN TRAFFICKING WITH CRISIS-MAPPING AND MOBILE TECHNOLOGY (2011)
Enslavement Prevention Alliance West Africa (EPAWA), a nonprofit organization from Ghana, worked with the Internews Africa regional team to implement a SMS – mapping system to support a local network of organizations in monitoring and addressing human trafficking in Ghana. The project created a private online map that was used by anti-trafficking organizations to map trafficking cases. The project also allowed for the creation an early warning system, in collaboration with Mobile Provider MTN, to allow monitors on the ground to report suspected cases using a toll free number that fed into the map, allowing to cross reference their information with all the other stakeholders.
EPAWA and its partners continued to use map and the system set up with the support of Internews for years after the funding for this project ended. Internews used the lessons learned from this project to replicate the same model for election monitoring in Ukraine and for a humanitarian project in Central African Republic.
LEVERAGING MOBILE TO EMPOWER COMMUNITIES IN MALI
This project was designed to strengthen the media’s role in informing and educating the public in preparation for the presidential and general elections that were meant to take place in April 2012. Radio is the primary means of mass communication in the country, but with mobile penetration in Mali above 80% and web access at less than 5%, cell phones emerged as an ideal option for increasing the interactivity of radio programming and reaching affected communities at large scale and low cost. Internews entered into a partnership with mobile solutions venture Souktel – an organization which had previously worked in Mali to deliver public opinion polls via cell phones. From October 2013 to February 2014, Souktel designed and deployed a mobile software platform to support Internews’ program activities.
HUMANITARIAN DATA TOOLKIT
MERGING PAPER FORMS AND MOBILE SURVEYS INTO ONE UNIQUE SUITE (2011)
To help humanitarian responders to quickly gather, analyze, and act upon data during a crisis, Internews and its partners piloted a Humanitarian Data Toolkit, a physical box of tools and a ready-to-go research design that could be rapidly implemented anywhere. The toolkit was created through collaboration with the Internews Center for Innovation and Learning, academic partner Modi Research Labs, Columbia University, and tech company Captricity. The toolkit included software, a survey, training materials for interviewers, and an established research methodology for use in the midst of a crisis. It contained all the necessary equipment and software to conduct an information needs assessment: mobile smartphones with survey software, with paper and pencil surveys as a backup, a computer with data aggregation software, and other equipment, all in a portable box. The toolkit was simple to carry, assemble, and use by Internews employees and other humanitarian responders.
Read more about the Humanitarian Data Toolkit: