Assignment 2: 6AAVC312 Development and Humanitarianism in a Digital
Students need to submit a 3,000 word essay via KEATS, which will make up 70% of their
grade for this module.
DEADLINE: Wednesday 29 April 2019 16:00 (i.e. submit before 16.00!)
Remember: department regulations state that essays submitted up to 24 hours after the
deadline can only receive a maximum ‘pass’ grade (40). Essays submitted over 24 hours late
will be marked ‘zero’.
Beware of plagiarism (reference your sources properly) and note that the word limit does not
include the bibliography.
We will discuss the specific essay questions, good essay writing practice, and referencing in
class before the end of the semester.
Please choose one of the following questions/topics:
1) ‘Social media has fundamentally changed the way in which humanitarian and
development organisations communicate about their work’. To what extent do you
agree with this statement?
2) To what extent can increased access to ICTs facilitate ‘human development’ within
societies in in the ‘global south’?
3) How is ‘big data’ being used to address issues of concern to humanitarian and/or
development organisations? What problems or limitations related to these new
approaches should such organisations be aware of?
4) Can social media be a source of violence and instability in ‘fragile’ states? What are
some of the implications of this for humanitarian organisations working in these


By (Student’s Name)

Course Title
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Big Data refers to huge data sets that can be analyzed to provide patterns or relationships, especially those related to human activities (Burns, 2015, pg 480). In the modern world, companies have invested a considerable amount of funds to collected data. Data collection is essential as it enables a company to make an informed decision on future investment plans. Human activities, both online and offline, are recorded and the information sold to the various companies that require them for their business activities, using the current technology. Examples of Big Data include information on social media usage, mobile application usage, stock exchange, and many more. This information is critical to humanitarian organizations as they can use them to provide current and future trends that will help them make decisions on the plan in a particular place. This paper explains how big data is used to address issues of concern humanitarian organizations and the problems or limitations related to these new approaches should such organizations be aware. The paper will start by discussing the importance of Big Data to the humanitarian organizations and end with its limitations that the companies should be aware of.
Uses of Big Data in Addressing Issues of Concern
Humanitarian organizations play a critical role in enhancing peoples’ lives, especially those affected by pandemics such as floods, drought, or political violence. The humanitarian organizations’ roles include providing aid to affected people, preventing calamities that can affect people of a particular area. They also provide critical information to endangered people for them to take quick measures or prepare early before a disaster strike. Also, to advise governments on measures that can be employed to protect its citizens from disasters (Burns, 2015, pg 480). Many humanitarian/development organizations currently exist; examples of these organizations include the World Health Organization, The Red Cross, Doctor Without Borders, among others. For these organizations to provide adequate assistance to the people in a particular field, data is crucial to make these such decisions.
Humanity is currently generating more data in a year than human history (Burns, 2015, pg 480). These data are generated through human activities online, shopping, and some sometimes debate they participate in their social media platforms. Humanitarian organizations rely on this information to plan for their activities. Without information, these organizations will have a considerable challenge to locate where aid is needed and how much they can allocate to a particular group. For any aid to be effective, the question of when and where should be answered; an organization cannot provide a particular help to people experiencing a different problem. People who have HIV/AIDS require medication and a properly balanced diet. Therefore, an organization cannot supply tents to people who are not refugees. Relevance is of great importance when giving out aid to people who have been affected.
Big data plays a prominent role in ensuring there is relevance in the aid given out to people. One of the key roles of big data is to provide real time information about a subject being analyzed. Having real-time information is essential as it enables the organization to adjust its plans before making decisions (Roth, and Luczak-Roesch, 2020, 556). Before action is taken, these organizations need to know how many people have been affected by a particular disaster. For instance, when planning to give aid to people who have HIV/AIDS; it is vital to know the number of people who have been affected. It is easier to plan on how many doctors can be shipped to a particular place, and the amount of medication required after knowing the exact number. Through this, the organizations ensure there is effectiveness in distributing resources and thus preventing wastage.
Big Data can be used to anticipate humanitarian disasters. Through monitoring sources, trends, and patterns, disasters can be easily be detected and prevented. Such information can also be used to warn people, thus minimizing damages. In areas where they’re prone to floods, humanitarian organizations can use Big Data to examine the climatic changes of a place, therefore, predicting when the next calamity will occur (Jongman et. al, 2015, pg 2258). This information can be given use to warn the local people who are at high risk of suffering from the floods and offering them alternative places to stay; by doing this, it will minimize loss of life and properties. In areas that are at risk of political violence the humanitarian organizations can use big data to predict the future, then use the information to prevent the crisis from happening by bringing together the parties that are likely to conflict. Through Big Data, the humanitarian organizations can check the disease infection pattern, and set aside preventive measures to place where a particular disease has not reached. In doing so, the spread of an epidemic is prevented from reaching places where it has not reached.
One of the significant concerns of humanitarian organizations is budgeting. Using Big Data can reduce the burden to these organizations as they know how much to allocate in a particular place. Knowing the number of people affected, and the type of help required, these organizations can budget the resources effectively. Since many organizations now are focusing on providing monetary aid to refugees like the Syrian refugees. The monetary aid to refugees currently stands at 3%, with Syrian refugees enjoying the most (Madianou, 2019, pg 5). Therefore before allocating funds to such cases, the humanitarian organizations must first budget to ensure that all affected people receive their share. Budgeting is essential as it ensures the allocation of funds is adequate to the people, and that no amount goes to wastage or shortage. When funds are well budgeted, the organizations can know which group of people require more help than another; therefore, the distribution of resources is more straightforward and saves time when distributing such resources.
Big Data is used to realize development opportunities and challenges. The humanitarian organizations always seek to find long term solutions to problems affecting the people of a particular place. Using Big Data, organizations can determine which development projects can be initiated in a place to ensure the enhancement of human lives. In areas where people complain more about water shortage, humanitarian organizations can start boreholes and water harvesting systems that will be used to collect water and store for future consumption. The best form of help to places where they face drought is through starting or artificial ways of irrigating farms to provide food during crisis times. The humanitarian organizations rely on big data for this information to offer sufficient assistance to the people who have been affected by a particular disaster. In the areas that are prone to landslides, the humanitarian organization can construct galloping to prevent soil erosion in the area. Also, teach the local communities on the best way of settlement in such areas to prevent future landslides in such areas.
Humanitarian organizations also use big data to know the prices of commodities in places. These organizations analyze social media conversations to understand the food prices in areas of study. By having knowledge of such data, the humanitarian organizations can know how much to allocate in monetary aid to the affected people in a particular place. Big data plays a crucial role in this as the humanitarian organizations can know the prices of each commodity in a place. This prevents the instances where they allocate funds that are insufficient to the people in the affected regions. Knowing the price of food in an area is also essential as the members of the humanitarian groups can know the cost of living in a particular area; therefore, they can prepare prior to visiting the area. This information contributes to budgeting by humanitarian groups. Humanitarian groups rely on funds from the federal governments. There is a need for organizations to have this information as they can use when requesting more funds from the regulating bodies. The humanitarian operations require adequate budgeting, and therefore, such information is essential when budgeting for their operations.
An agency such as the U.S Agency for International Development focuses more on data-driven projects (Roth, and Luczak-Roesch, 2020, 556). The agency is examining data from geospatial data and satellite images to identify areas where there is unsustainable water use and come up with plans to solve such issues. These measures will lead to less drought is such areas, therefore, preventing the people in such areas from issues of water shortage. The USAID is also partnering with the Pakistan power suppliers to install small meters in homes. Through this development, the agency can analyze the power usage trends in the area, and come up with strategies that can help prevent inadequate consumption of power, and prevent blackouts that can lead to a crisis in the region (Roth, and Luczak-Roesch, 2020, 556). With such data, the projects can be initiated to help the local people stay away from such a disaster. Power is a crucial part of human lives, and having it throughout is essential to the people living in the locality. People use power to sustain their lives, and when there is a blackout, that means most of the human activities will be affected in the region. Power enhances security in a place, and when there is a lack of power, many vices can occur; therefore, the agency’s focus is to prevent such vices from happening.
Limitations Associated with Big Data to Humanitarian Operations
As explained earlier, Big Data is essential to both sustainable development projects and humanitarian actions. Although big data is an excellent measure to acquire information to provide assistance to the affected people still is not enough since it faces a lot of limitations that humanitarian organizations should be aware of. Big data has the potential to provide critical insights to humanitarian organizations. Due to the problems and limitations that it has, it makes it hard for the humanitarian organizations to make informed decisions. These problems and limitations are as follows;
One limitation is the identifications of the right problems where big data can help (Sharma, and Joshi, 2019). It is important to understand that big data analysis is not a solution but a tool to help in solving a problem that exists. Since there are many big data sources available for people to use, the humanitarian officers can lose focus on the vital data they are supposed to focus on and keep their focus on less critical data that adds little value to the organization. Big data sometimes becomes overwhelming and thus creating some challenges to the team. To avoid problems related to big data, the team should learn to focus on the things that are of great importance to the firm, and avoid less important data to the organization. This facilitates smooth decision making process. In any organization, it is very important to have a team that is tasked with coming up with solutions to critical problems. Therefore, it is the work of that team to identify, analyse and provide lasting solutions to a particular problem, so the first thing is to have an understanding of the problem for it to be solved. Humanitarian innovators need to look for inspiration from other projects.
Another problem associated with big data is that data will not provide insight; therefore, an organization requires a team of experienced members who will study the data and come up with the insights (Sharma, and Joshi, 2019). To acquire data from these raw data, an organization needs clear methodologies that will help distill insights from raw data. Information mined from big data sources is a lot; therefore, a team should first sort the data into respective categories. After grouping, the team can analyze the information thoroughly to derive the insights required to solve a particular problem. Acquiring data examiners to inspect data from big data sources can be costly. Therefore, this can add to the expenses of humanitarian organizations. This problem exists since people always get carried away when presented to large amounts of data that they are available to them. It is important for people working with big data sources to always focus on what is important to the organization. It helps to make quick decisions that are helpful to the organization’s plans. In any project, definition of the problem is very important because in many instances, people will never understand a concept unless they are told. Therefore, refining the problem statement as many times as possible will help to provide a solution to this problem.
Another problem facing humanitarian organizations is finding data therapists and data translators to translate the data (Sharma, and Joshi, 2019). The data people and the humanitarians do not have a common language and therefore have different vocabularies. Humanitarian’s agencies require data translators, and this is because data translators are hybrid people, and so can understand each part of the data discussion. Facing big data problems alone can be challenging for humanitarian people because they will face numerous challenges when undertaking the tasks. Therefore, rich knowledge of data therapy is required to understand how to tackle big data issues since most of the problems that big data presents already have existing and tested solutions. Big data analysis can be very challenging to persons who lack the knowledge, but it is easier for a person who has a background in big data analysis. Putting more focus in this area will simplify the problems for humanitarian organizations. Data therapy and data translation is a piece of crucial knowledge to understand how to handle problems related to big data.
Another problem is that sometimes the data does not provide the information that you want to know; these can bring challenges to budgeting and decision making. Through having knowledge of such data, the humanitarian organizations can know how much to allocate in terms of monetary aid to the affected people in a particular place. Big data is a crucial in any humanitarian organization in learning pricing strategies for different commodities for different areas. The data collected is used in their budgetary process which saves them from making wrong decisions when it comes to fund allocations. The decisions made in terms of who to receive how much, and when is all guided by data gathered. For example, it is very easy for humanitarian organizations to prepare ahead of their visits for the needy areas which require support. Even the national governments depend on the data collected in their various allocation programs, it becomes very easy for them to carry out these exercises since the big data is available. Therefore, all budgeting processes often depend on big data for a fair allocation of funds across the areas. Finding the appropriate time to introduce data innovation during emergencies is also a problem facing humanitarian organizations (Sharma, and Joshi, 2019). Before data innovations are implemented, an organization must conduct a proof of concept and a prototype based on realistic scenarios. Creating prototypes with people on the affected areas is crucial to derive useful information from big data. Acquiring these people to inspect data from big data sources can be costly. Therefore, this can add to the expenses of humanitarian organizations. People often face challenges when they face large amounts of data. It is important for people working with big data sources to always concentrate on what is important to the organization to make quick decisions that are helpful to the organization’s plans. Defining the problem in any project is important as many times people do not know what they do not know, and therefore, re-evaluating an issue as many times as possible always gives a positive result and a lasting solution to a problem.
Information from Big Data sources does not consider individuals’ privacy (Sharma, and Joshi, 2019). Before using any information to come up with a solution to a problem, humanitarian organizations must first ensure that the information does interfere with people’s privacy. The humanitarian organizations should ensure that people’s privacy is upheld and that no one is offended by the use of the information. Currently there are no measures to ensure users’ privacy is respected. “Any data project must respect privacy principles. Before undertaking any project, you need to conduct privacy and risk impact assessment to make sure that you are aware of the potential risks the accessing or use of certain data might create for individuals and groups. The risks are not only related to data access – the methods of analysis must also be considered carefully.” (Mulder et. al, 2016, pg 37).
Conclusion and Recommendations
Big Data is essential to the Humanitarian organizations, to ensure that the limitations are well addressed the humanitarian organization should employ data therapists who will help in distilling insights from raw data. Most humanitarian organizations lack staff and resources to handle the big amount of data from the sources; therefore, they rely on online activists using crowdsourcing and open-source software to map crises; examples of these online activists include Ushahidi and Open Street Maps. These activists form part of the digital humanitarianism. Crisis mapping using digital humanitarianism has proven to be of great importance in service delivery during crises. In recent times this method has been employed in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Chile (Qadir et. al, 2016, pg 10). In 2011 it was employed in the uprising that was taking place in Libya during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal (Qadir et. al, 2016, pg 10). The main reason for big data is to enhance the sharing of information between the communities that have been affected. Also, the organizations that provide help to these communities. Through big data and increased connectivity, humanitarian organizations can know where the need is required and therefore focus their humanitarian assistance to such areas. In conclusion, the paper has achieved to explain how big data will address issues of concern to the humanitarian organizations, its limitation, and the recommendations for the limitations. It is evident that, big data advantages overdo the limitations in all the areas. Therefore, it is recommended to embrace big data not only to humanitarian organizations but also to other organizations across the globe.

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