DigitHarium Month #5: Providing (and denying) connectivity during crises

As digital technologies become more pervasive and part of our everyday lives, “connectivity” has moved from an enabler for faster and more efficient humanitarian action to a service that many people living through emergencies ask for. However, its very importance begs the question of how humanitarian organizations can safeguard this digital space – and of what consequences a lack of connectivity can bring.
Article 09 July 2021

For the fifth DigitHarium month, we looked at how connectivity is impacting humanitarian operations, both as a service that people require (connectivity as aid) and as a tool facilitating humanitarian action (connectivity for aid). We also explored what could be the humanitarian consequences of a lack of connectivity – whether accidental or deliberate.

For the fifth Digital Dilemmas Dialogue, we held a discussion between Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, and Franz Fayot, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of Luxembourg. We focused on how digital connectivity has changed the way we can stay in touch with and provide services to people that might be otherwise inaccessible in an emergency, what the main opportunities and barriers to establishing connectivity in humanitarian spaces are – and how states and humanitarian organizations can collaborate to address them.

Digital Dilemmas Dialogue #5 | Connectivity: need, privilege, lifeline?
22.06.21 | Online recording available

For the fifth Digital Dilemmas Debate, organized in partnership with the Humanitarian Policy Group at the ODI, we invited experts from the humanitarian, policy and telecommunication sectors to discuss the opportunities (and risks) granted by increased digital connectivity in humanitarian settings. In particular, we looked at examples of how establishing connectivity can help people better access information and opportunities, as well as at what considerations apply to make sure that the most vulnerable are not excluded – and what we can do to ensure that this line of contact is kept safe.

Digital Dilemmas Debate 5

Digital Dilemmas Debate #5 | From Food to Wifi - Connectivity as Aid
30.06.21 | Online recording available

 Finally, we analyzed the importance of providing connectivity as a form of aid, and the responsibility that this entails to make such connectivity "protective by design" with both internal and external experts. This included a list of actions for humanitarians, donors and the private sector to create a more protective connectivity service.

DigitHarium blog post | Protective by design: safely delivering connectivity as aid, by Rakesh Bharania and Mark Silverman
08.07.21 | Available online


Additional resources

Chapter 8 of the Handbook on Data Protection in Humanitarian Action (2nd Edition)

 [VIDEO EXPLAINER] Connectivity as aid (01:14)


Questions? Comments? Ideas?
Feel free to write to us at: digitharium@icrc.org

The DigitHarium is part of the Humanitarian Data and Trust Initiative.