Putting the Human in Humanitarian Aid TechnologyJan 6, 2021
With improvements in technology, the field of humanitarian relief has a growing toolkit for delivering aid and responding to emergencies. One recent example is Humansis, a platform for response interventions that provides an innovative approach to delivering aid to people who need it most.
Developed by People in Need (PIN), a Czech non-governmental organisation, with funding from numerous donors and with technical support from Quanti, a Czech software development team, Humansis aims to make humanitarian aid delivery more convenient, reliable, and transparent. Humansis is at the forefront of innovation in humanitarian emergency response, driving aid into the new digital era.
The Humansis platform can be used in a number of ways, depending on the type of intervention. For example, it can keep track of cash deliveries, whether electronic or otherwise, providing immediate monetary relief to those escaping conflict. It can pull data from a variety of sources, including government database, to accurately deliver aid to those most in need in providing shelter relief following natural disasters for example. The platform can also be used as an aid-delivery mechanism, with options for delivery via mobile money, smartcards, e-vouchers, or in-kind distributions. The platform serves the purpose for rapid and efficient emergency response for displaced people fleeing conflict, cash-aid support for flood survivors in Cambodia and relief packages in other countries.
James Happell, Humansis Founder, says that platforms like Humansis have the potential to revolutionise the aid sector. “I genuinely believe in the transformative power of technology and its ability to affect positive change in humanitarian support,” Happell says. “With Humansis, we have developed a tool that we believe will change the ability of organisations to work more effectively, efficiently, and transparently. Humansis allows us to promote social equality through tools such as electronic cash transfers. In addition to our work with Humansis here in Cambodia, we have used it to help support more than 150,000 people across four countries - Syria, Ukraine, Cambodia and Ethiopia.”
In a typical emergency response scenario, especially in areas affected by conflict and natural disasters, the process of delivering aid is often slow and inefficient. Humansis was developed to cut through these logistical obstacles. Using a human-centred design approach, Humansis harnesses the latest technology to connect with financial services, government databases, and data collection tools to make payments faster and more transparent.
For example, with Humansis, there is no need to rely on multiple spreadsheets and piles of papers to store data. The system is cloud-based, easy to use, and is accessible even in areas with low connectivity. With Humansis, relief can be provided immediately through the click of a button.
Humansis is also highly secure, with an encrypted online database to keep data safe. The system was built from the ground up to comply with international standards on data protection, including European GDPR legislation.
Finally, Humansis provides real-time data, and the resulting transparency is one of its key advantages. Cash is no longer transported in envelopes, which can lead to loss and inaccurate reporting. With its centralised dashboard, information is consolidated in one location. Users and staff have access to a full audit trail to ensure all movements, usage, and changes in funds are accounted for.
Humansis in Cambodia
In 2019, Cambodia was the first country to pilot the Humansis platform, sending mobile money transfers to recipients in rural areas. In October 2020, Humansis was deployed in response to heavy rainfall in Cambodia, which caused flash flooding in four provinces, affecting 175,872 households in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Pursat, amongst others.¹
To support the affected provinces, PIN partnered with DanChurchAid (DCA) and Banteay Srei (BS) to carry out unconditional cash distributions. Using the Humansis platform, cash was given to 500 families across five districts in Battambang and Siem Reap.²
Lukáš Laube, PIN Cambodia Country Director, says: “Humansis provides an easy and fast way to give financial support to families most affected by disasters. In Cambodia, we utilised Humansis to help affected families and communities build back better, most especially following flash flooding. The platform promotes safety measures when giving and receiving cash and in the mobility of people—through the use of electronic transactions which does not require physical delivery of aid—critical in the midst of a global pandemic.”
In Cambodia, the preferred distribution modality for cash response is mobile money, as it is widely known and used, and Humansis facilitates this preferred option. When the transaction has been completed by the donor, recipients receive an SMS notifying them to pick up the cash at a WING kiosk (a local, specialised mobile banking provider in Cambodia), which serves as a collection point for cash distributions.
“In Cambodia, PIN is one of the many organisations that work on emergency flood response, and the most common means of support is through the provision of cash,” says Laube. “With Humansis, we have a powerful tool to ensure that cash is securely distributed to those who need it – in Cambodia, and wherever emergency support is needed most.”