Deep dive into Digital Access

In this futures deep dive, we built on the chapter on digital access and further explored the door to digital - what enhances or hinders finding and stepping through this door? Which current technological trends could make barriers to digital access obsolete? How can aid delivery leverage technology in a smart and including manner? And which never-before anticipated possibilities and risks await us behind the door? 

You can access the Miro board for detailed content here

”Is there a middle ground btw online-offline? can we find a bridge btw instead either/or to be inclusive?” 

”How does humanitarian intervention in the digital access space sync with broader digital transformation?” 

“We need to think about forcibly displaced people as "whole people" with needs and aspirations beyond their displaced status.” 

Desirable future 

The desirable future of digital access we co-created in this deep dive, is a future in which: 

  • There are exceptions to opt out from sharing data and partaking in ad-based business models for people facing vulnerability.

  • Connectivity grants social and work opportunities and interactions, not bound to a physical space. This has lead to a more fulfilling life for displaced people. 

  • If forced to leave their homes, people can bring their digital livelihoods with them.  

  • This happens in a safe and secure manner and those providing services are aware of and adhere to global privacy regulations. There are transparent systems in place with clear checks and balances on power dynamics and digital security and data protection mechanisms are credible and abided by all. 

  • Access to digital is not subject to arbitrary restrictions by duty bearers (Governments or any actor having de facto control over population in an area). e.g. internet infrastructure can't be switched off, no censorship, no limits to using connected devices 

  • As notions of mobile will evolve and adapt, people have more agency and choice in the types of devices they use to connect, and each will be affordable. 

  • Affordability of devices and connectivity have decreased tremendously allowing access across populations. 

  • Connectivity is built on a sustainable basis and does not disappear once humanitarian actors leave.  

  • People have access to services even if they choose not to be connected. 

  • Digital ID that can be accessed from everywhere helps to identify people and serve them better. 

  • We have moved away from mandatory SIM registration towards open access to SIM registration (or other connectivity regulatory gateway). 

  • Digital supports root cause work and helps to prevent displacement all together. 

Bridging tomorrow and today

For the desirable future of Digital Access to be realized, we need: 

  • More trust: we need to bridge the current distance between stakeholders (citizens, groups) and duty bearers (governments, market) 

  • Mindset change at global level to see displaced people (especially young people and girls) as agents of change not victims 

  • Hybrid thinking 

  • Collaboration and transparency 

  • Holistic approach to digital inclusion as opposed to thinking about single programmes 

  • Tech solutions that capitalise on the core competency of the private sector, coupled with NGO competencies and mandate to serve. We need to build and learn using existing solutions to identify where NGOs do value adding work 

  • More true co-design and co-production, willingness for experimentation and being open to failure. We need tech solutions to be driven by communities. 

  • Upskill on digital and data literacy at all levels, including data security, source critique etc. 

  • Further humanitarian focus and investment in digital access spaces 

  • See access as a right, not an extra. We need interlinked secure and robust digital infrastructure 

  • Ensure that national digital and universal access strategies and plans needs to be inclusive of forcibly displaced people 

Identifying avenues for change: What can we do today? What can we do together? 

To ensure that national digital / universal access strategies and plans will be inclusive of forcibly displaced people, we need: 

  • Streamlined communication between humanitarian organisations, government and regulators and service providers/mobile network operators. 

  • Joint advocacy bringing together NGOs, UN agencies, community, private sector vis-à-vis local regulators. 

  • To decouple connectivity and security issues for policy maker 

  • Risk-based / tiered KYC (know-your-customer) as a solution to address legitimate state concerns on users not demonstrating certain levels of credential 

To enhance willingness for experimentation, we need: 

  • To work with and experiment WITH the people who will be using the service 

  • To deal with risk by working in smaller iterations. We should learn from successful tech companies that stay in ‘ BETA-mode’ of continuous development. 

  • Use natural and existing adoption patterns for experimentation. 

  • Test what already works commercially in displacement contexts. 

  • educate funders/agencies that they can fund experimentation and have differing PM methods and gateways 

  • embed design thinking and experimentation in program design and delivery 

  • Think in terms of ‘prosumerism’ – can X be done by affected people (not for them)? Is any content produced? Is the a (business) model? 

To train digital and literacy, we need: 

  • To learn and use natural dynamics within communities on digital adoption: to bring more people into process already happening, younger people training older generation on how to use digital devices / tech 

  • Listen to people's needs and include their knowledge in relation to digital access and digital protection 

  • To ensure that (program) staff of humanitarian agencies/NGOs is technical literate, too, to avoid human error and security risk. We need to mainstream data literacy and data protection across all sectors/programs, including in relation to collection of data. 

  • Graphic illustrations on rights and digital security 

  • Develop video materials in local languages with rights and source 

  • Make sure all materials give the right context 

© 2021 by DareDisrupt for DRC