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Published: May 31, 2022

Quo Vadis: technologies and Innovations in Humanitarian SRM – reflections on GISF’s Spring Forum

By: Panos Navrozidis

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Keeping up with the technological innovations and new services in the humanitarian security risk management sector has been identified as a key priority by GISF's members. In this blog, GISF Deputy Director for the Americas, Panos Navrozidis, reflects upon the digital innovations we discussed at our Spring Forum, and the cost and benefits of utilising these technologies to improve SRM training and practices.

Keeping up with the technological innovations and new services in the humanitarian security risk management (SRM) sector has been identified as a key priority by our members given the proliferation of new products that offer immediate solutions cutting across the learning curve. That being said, getting lost into the vastness of market-driven options is a risk that can be managed though by filtering and simplifying incoming information.  During our last Spring Forum held both virtually and in person in Washington,D.C. and Brussels, a number of private sector companies and sector leaders  joined our members to present their work, explore opportunities and debate challenges.

Figure 1. Adopter types: The Innovation Adoption Curve is represented by a bell-curve graph, which is used to show deviations within a group. The highest point on a bell curve indicates the majority; the early majority and late majority make up most of the clients in a given industry.

When new technologies or trends are introduced, sometimes we can be hesitant, and other times we jump right on the bandwagon. To manage uncertainty and make informed decisions in a timely manner, it is important to not only keep ourselves informed about the latest industry developments but also run a cost-benefit analysis tailored to the organizational needs that should define our overall strategy.

During our Spring Forum, two promising start-up companies, Headset and Silkroad, presented two very different options (high vs low-tech) of 360 virtual and augmented reality training environments that allow for interactive participation for the end users contributing to a positive experience. The most interesting part was the conversation that followed the demo exercises, debating whether these new digital technology products could be used at scale and be integrated in NGOs’ current SRM capacity-building toolkits.

Harnessing big data, visualizing incoming information and establishing trends are all necessary to provide aid workers with the information they need to make decisions that allow them to access target populations safely and securely. Two other organisations, Insecurity Insight and Factal, introduced their distinct but complementary products and services. On the one hand, this included a comprehensive platform for effective management of security and safety risks, and on the one hand, a digital tool for real-time information verification, flexible alerting, customized mapping and information geolocation.

Another exciting session was the digital Crisis Management simulation run by Conducttr creating a virtual environment of a complex attack in a bustling urban centre popular with aid workers involving real-time scenario moderation, a demo social media environment adding to the pressure and, overall, a very realistic experience.

In addition to the contributions from the private sector, global leading experts in humanitarian SRM from ICRC, WFP, OCHA and INSO talked about emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, biometrics, UAVs and automated deliveries, etc., and highlighted the opportunities and risks for security risk management.

Finally, our members had the opportunity to discuss, in private, the lessons learnt from a critical incident during a HEAT training course in West Africa, get the latest on the war in Ukraine through desk-based analysis and real-time information from the field and get a snapshot of the new GISF NGO Security toolkit. An additional session on the Northern Triangle was organised for our members in the Americas only, highlighting that humanitarian SRM strategies need to be adapted according to the regional characteristics.

We  hope that you enjoyed our sessions and hope to see you back in our next Forum scheduled for the 20-22 of September 2022 where we are going to address the vertical and horizontal “coordination and collaboration opportunities across the humanitarian security sector”. GISF’s bi-annual, members-only forums are unique in that they bring to the same table a great number of sector leaders to discuss and debate areas of common concern and subsequently inform our programmatic priorities As usual, we welcome your feedback, recommendations and suggestions.

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