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NetHope Global Summit

Embracing change for collective impact

  • by Helen James
  • 19 Jan 16

Blog Post

Do you know how many people and organisations in the tech sector want to help make humanitarian aid more effective? I don’t have an exact number, but the answer, I learned at the NetHope Global Summit earlier this month, is lots.

The focus of NetHope is, in short, technology for development. For 14 years it has been connecting the tech sector to the NGO community with some incredible results.

This year’s Summit, which took place in Copenhagen, reflected on the rapid change happening in both sectors, and looked at practical ways the NGO and tech worlds can collaborate for greater impact.

Recurring themes over the week included the need for open communication between ICT and programme teams, the importance of connectivity in humanitarian response (‘communications as aid’ was a term used throughout the event), and the potential of e-cash transfers for humanitarian aid. Below I’ve summarised some of the sessions I attended.

Doing Good Work Better: Why ICT4D* isn’t enough

Lauren Woodman, NetHope’s CEO shared her thoughts on how non-profits and technology innovators can do their good work better.

Lauren used the following framework:

  • Connectivity – We need to work towards and demand more connectivity, in the terms of the locations we work in and the platforms and devises we could be using.
  • Data – More connectivity will bring more data, so we must prepare for it. Are we collecting the right data? How can it be used and analysed? How can we keep that data safe?
  • Complexity – The solutions needed to solve our connectivity and data questions will be complex; do we have the skills needed?
  • Simplicity – Lauren talked about the importance of making things simple. Simple things are functional, easy to use, and clear in purpose.
  • Scale – When things are simple they can scale more easily, but organisational and sector change is needed to scale things effectively.

*ICT4D in full is information and communications technology for development.

Watch Lauren’s full session here.

A new strategy for humanitarian connections

Connectivity is still the main barrier to using technology to help humanitarian response (although power is perhaps just as important and just as lacking).

Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council, speaking in another session said that today, often the second question a refugee asks after arriving in a country is ‘do you have wifi?’ (after ‘what country am I in?’) because the need to communicate quickly with loved ones is fundamental to us all.

In this session Elizabeth Spencer, Global ETC Coordinator, Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) introduced the ETC2020 strategy which aims to increase telecommunications connectivity in the coming 5 years. Partnership with the private sector, including technology and telecoms providers and energy companies, is key to the strategy. Read more about ETC2020.

Square Peg, Round Hole? Clarifying the role of technology in development

This session was led by Sophie Marie Romana, Director of Community Finance at Oxfam America and included input from Maria Berenguer, Ellen Ward and Joel Pinckheard.

Interest in the role technology can play in development is increasing, but there is a lack of communication between programme and ICT teams.

Maria Berenguer, ICT4D Advisor at SOS Children’s Villages. Maria said there is a lack of awareness of what ICT teams can provide, and tech is not integrated into programming. Maria gave a practical example of a mobile money programme, and how collaboration helped achieve greater results.

Ellen Ward, ICT4D Coordinator at Concern Worldwide, talked about the importance of trust and communication between ICT and country teams, and said that consistent engagement over time needs to be invested in. Simple things like county visits, regular meetings and calls can really help to maintain relationships.

Joel Pinckheard, International Service Manager, Oxfam, reiterated the lack of understanding between ICT and programme teams. Joel said that his team has to demonstrate a need for investment and so they ask programmes teams to submit requests, but programme teams might feel that is his team’s way of passing the workload onto them. Again, communication between the two departments can help build understanding.

Creating resilient digital payment services for humanitarian response

This session showcased good examples of e-cash transfers for humanitarian aid.

Jeremy Cole introduced RedRose, an app which enables e-cash transfers for humanitarian response. The app includes beneficiary registration, programme management elements, monitoring and evaluation, and online/offline syncing.

Maggie Holmesheoran, Catholic Relief Services’ Program Manager for Yobe State Emergency, talked about CRS’s cash for refugees and how they went from paper vouchers to pre-paid MasterCards to using the RedRose app. The app offered CRS extremely useful data and was more secure. However, when a device was lost, the lack of connectivity in the region (the vendor hadn’t synced his device recently) meant more data was also lost.

Find out more about NetHope

If your organisation is a member of the Start Network, it’s likely to be a member of NetHope too, and this represents a unique opportunity to connect to the tech sector. Find out at

Watch the videos of the plenary sessions from the NetHope Global Summit.

See the full agenda of the NetHope Global Summit.

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  • by Helen James