New technologies and data can make humanitarian action more effective, e.g. in terms of facilitating searches for missing persons, distributing food or financial aid, providing faster and more reliable data to decision-makers, and disseminating crucial information to affected communities.
But these new technologies also carry certain risks. Social media networks provide direct access to communities, but they also potentially spread misinformation, fake news and hate speech. In addition, access to these technologies is not inclusive and there is still a general lack of understanding about their use, potential and risks.
Protection and responsible use of data in humanitarian action
In collecting data relating to humanitarian action, a number of issues need to be addressed, such as ensuring that data is only used for humanitarian purposes and not used to e.g. monitor people or restrict welfare access. Another issue is how to limit the risk of data re-identification and ensure that programme beneficiaries remain anonymous. It is essential that answers are found to all these questions and that solutions and best practices are developed that maximise the benefits of new technologies and minimise the risks.
Switzerland is aware that the humanitarian data ecosystem is essentially interconnected, which means that individual organisations cannot address all of these issues alone. It is therefore promoting cross-sectoral dialogue and partnerships between the various stakeholders, including humanitarian and international organisations, states, civil society, academia, and the private sector.
In this context, and in line with its Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–24, Switzerland has advocated a secure and stable digital space in a number of multilateral processes. It also launched the Humanitarian Data and Trust Initiative to ensure that data collected in humanitarian action is protected and used responsibly.