Refugees are set to make up a third of Lebanon’s population by late 2014. But the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is massively underfunded in the country, forcing it to do more with less. In this blog post, MPP Master’s student Alessandro Pezzano shares his first experiences from the field and gives an early insight into his research theme: the use of technology to improve aid effectiveness.
There is growing recognition in the humanitarian world of the role that technology can play in complementing traditional forms of assistance. UN OCHA’s report ‘Humanitarianism in the Network Age’ testifies to some of these opportunities.
Given the urban nature of displacement in Lebanon, it is often challenging to identify and reach people in need. In humanitarian crises, people not only need material assistance; they also have an urgent need for information. Despite this, there is limited research on the application of ICTs in the field. This motivated my visit to Lebanon to assess technology use by organizations providing humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrian populations.
During my field interviews, I have witnessed how mobile and internet-based technologies can address information gaps by providing relevant, prompt and effective information to refugees. However, there are still many challenges in the implementation of such technologies, largely due to institutional reasons such as coordination between different actors and resource constraints.
I have also observed the use of GPS and GIS to keep track of informal settlements – since displaced populations are often highly mobile. These technologies can help to monitor movements and speed up relief aid by providing more accurate and timely data.
Read the full blog.