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Digital Payments

Embracing new technology is critical to making humanitarian response – including cash transfer programming – as effective  as possible. But when we integrate new technologies and partnerships into humanitarian assistance, we must ensure that the safety, dignity and preferences of people in crisis always come first.

Why is this theme important?

Increasingly, humanitarian responders are providing cash-based assistance through a range of digital products, including mobile devices, electronic vouchers, and  cards. These digital payment systems – when used appropriately – can deliver timelier, more secure, more cost effective, and inclusive assistance. To increase the scale and quality of cash transfer programming, we must continue to invest in partnerships between the humanitarian sector and digital payment service providers.

Digital technology is transforming the way we respond to emergencies. Innovations range from how we identifying people eligible for assistance, to data collection for assessments and monitoring, to communication with crisis-affected communities. As the volume of data we collect, store and share about people grows, we must ensure that our data protection systems keep pace and that we understand and mitigate for the risks inherent in new technologies.

What should progress look like in this area?

To realise the immense potential of new technologies, humanitarian actors must collaborate more effectively with each other and with private sector actors. We need to ensure that:

  • Humanitarians and private sector actors can communicate and collaborate around a set of agreed standards, based on clear roles and responsibilities
  • Humanitarian and private sector actors work together to explore which new operational models can improve cost efficiency,  and that the best solutions are brought to scale
  • Risks in utilizing digital technologies in humanitarian contexts are understood and mitigated
  • Design of digital systems are based on recipients’ experience and preference,
  • We improve the use of digital payments in fragile contexts with chronic humanitarian need.

Current initiatives

The Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Network, supported by CaLP and Oxfam, are hosting a learning event on 16 October to showcase the results of their work and understand remaining challenges.

Read more about the Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Network.

Main image: Sam Tarling, Oxfam.