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Covid-19 and the future of digital humanitarianism

Time (GMT +00) 13:00 14:00
Hero image description: Refugees in Ethiopia have finger prints recorded Image credit:EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Barnaby Willitts-King @barnabywk – Senior Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI


Zoe Hamilton – Insights Manager, GSMA


Mahamud Abdirahman –  Director, Business Development and International Relations Division, Telesom

Justin Colvard – Country Director, Mercy Corps Haiti

Adelina Kamal @AdelinaKamal – Executive Director, ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre)


Digital tools and approaches are at the forefront of global responses to Covid-19, including in humanitarian contexts. While it’s too early to tell whether the initial hype around the potential of digital tools to solve new challenges has lived up to the reality, several initiatives, such as mobile money to deliver cash assistance, have proven their ability to work at scale in humanitarian responses.

Yet stubborn ‘digital divides’ between people with and without the means to effectively use these new technologies are widening. Digital interventions also come with new risks to affected individuals and communities that aid providers must navigate. With digital tools and systems designed and used now likely to outlast the pandemic, these actions will have a lasting relevance, and makes careful consideration of their uses critical.

Drawing on recently launched reports by ODI HPG and GSMA M4H, we explore the digital trends and risks emerging in the Covid-19 context.  We delve into some of the themes from the reports including: successful examples of digital technology in Covid-19, like mobile money for cash assistance; risks exacerbated by the crisis, including the digital divide; and changes to the ecosystem and how humanitarian actors engage with other actors.