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Digital Payments and New Technologies in CTP

Digital technology is transforming the way in which the humanitarian sector responds to emergencies. Digital payments, when applied appropriately, can help ensure that those affected by crisis receive cash assistance in a way that is timelier, more reliable, secure, cost effective and inclusive.

Digital technology is also cited as instrumental to improving monitoring and evaluation systems, early warning and preparedness initiatives and assessment data collection among others 

The video below from Ericsson, with IRC and OCHA, discusses the positive impact technology is having in humanitarian responses and how it can continue doing so into the future.

What  will success look like by 2020?

Digital payment mechanisms and new technology platforms are better used across CTP programs to effectively facilitate humanitarian responses at(?) scale, support access to financial inclusion and protect beneficiary privacy. 

What is stopping us from achieving that?

Although widely recognized as key to the expansion and improvement of cash transfer programming, the use of new technologies, specifically digital payment mechanisms, are often ineffectively and inefficiently used in humanitarian response.

In a recent survey conducted by the ELAN, 74% of members reported they were not using e-transfers (digital payment) mechanisms as often as they would like to. They cited lack of infrastructure (71%), limited product availability (62%), and limited time to research potential products as their main barriers to use (57%). Some of the main challenges inhibiting the scale up, and improved use of these technologies include:

  1. Lack of clarity on entry points for the private sector in humanitarian coordination mechanisms
  2. Limited experience and expertise amongst humanitarian actors in engaging with private sector actors
  3. Limited knowledge among humanitarian actors of technology development and opportunities
  4. Limited learning and coordination between humanitarian actors and longer-term financial inclusion initiatives
  5. Lack of clarity on how to effectively and systematically engage local financial institutions and national financial markets in humanitarian responses

To address these challenges, humanitarian and development actors are currently engaged in a range of ongoing initiatives aimed at expanding or improving the use of the digital payment mechanisms and new technologies in cash transfer programming.  

Photo Credit: Sam Tarling, Oxfam.

What is CaLP doing to address some of these issues?

CaLP, through the digital payments working group, offers a platform for coordination of partner agency efforts on the following topics:

  1. Humanitarian digital payment deployments
  2. Links between digital cash transfers and financial inclusion
  3. Strengthening local financial systems and infrastructure
  4. Preparedness for use of digital payments at scale
  5. Digital identity standards
  6. Inter-operability of ID and payment systems
  7. Data protection

CaLP has continued to help promote the role of new technology within cash transfers. This is highlighted through its engagement with the Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Action Network (ELAN). ELAN aims to improve the use of e-transfers and e-vouchers in emergency situations through providing information, technical support and resources. 

CaLP plans to continue sharing more information related to the application of new technologies in humanitarian response on these pages. Please get in touch with us (techco@cashlearning.org) if you would like to share any information related to this topic.

Related Websites, Papers and Articles

Websites, papers and articles dedicated to discussions on the use of digital technology in the humanitarian context:


CaLP's Publications

For more publications on e-transfers visit our library.