Saving lives with data: how the UN is developing digital tools for improved humanitarian aid

19 December 2018

The message is simple: better data saves lives.

At the highest levels of the UN, it is understood that digital tools play a crucial role in ensuring that aid gets to the people who need it most.

In 2018, UN chief António Guterres, and other senior officials, talked several times about the enormous benefits of technology in addressing a host of challenges: he has mentioned the fact that UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, can map the connections between schools in remote areas, the World Food Programme’s use of blockchain to track payments to aid recipients, and the High Commissioner for Refugees is using biotech to better support and protect refugees.

And, in December 2017, the Secretary-General launched the United Nations Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague, with a mandate to increase the impact and use of data, and ensure that aid workers around the world can access information they need to make fast, life-saving, and informed decisions.

To mark the first anniversary of the Centre, Conor Lennon from UN News spoke to Sarah Telford, director of the Centre – which is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – and started by asking her why, when the UN Chief saw the need for a Centre to deal specifically with humanitarian data.

Audio Credit:
Conor Lennon, UN News
Audio Duration:


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