When Humanitarian Aid Will Fully Embrace Efficient Business Practices?

When Humanitarian Aid Will Fully Embrace Efficient Business Practices?

According to professor of Technology and Operations Management and the director of INSEAD Humanitarian Research Group, Van Wassenhove (2006), disaster relief is about 80 % logistics, in another word, it comes down to Supply Chain Management (SCM). Hence, in order to efficiently and effectively deliver aid in a disaster setting, it is necessary to adopt an integrative approach managing and coordinating all relationships and actors.

Human brain has always been outstandingly efficient in exploiting every single discovery and coming up with the most efficient and beneficial practice to maximize profit.  The innovative use of technology, which moves away from automation (the substitution of human effort by machine) to “informating” (the use of technology-created data to advise and empower decision-makers to alter business operations), contributes to the creation of a complex network of supply chains that is capable of satisfying worldwide consumer demands. Because ‘informating’ expands human capacity to understand systems (for example computer-generated data trends allow for human behavior), companies and organizations organization can anticipate and predict needs better. Information systems did not only change the way companies do things, but also the way they think, giving birth to resilient learning organizations.

Certainly, the Internet has a lot, if not everything to do with the success of these powerful information systems. What most people don’t know is that one of the earliest uses of the Internet is the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in the 1960s, and refers to the data interchange between trade partners. Through time, businesses have successfully integrated the EDI model into a high-performing information systems connecting all the meaningful supply chain components from the supplier to the customer. However, it took half a century to apply the same model in humanitarian aid system. Undeniably, the development of OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX), an open virtual platform of data collection and integration, is a valuable asset, yet still needs to be integrated within a greater humanitarian supply chain.

One can argue that the HDX adopts an integrative approach to managing and coordinating relationships and actors within the field of disaster relief. However, according to Dublin Institute of Technology, because of both funding and transparency issues, NGOs are unable to invest in the necessary IT requirements, while for-profit organizations could make early and profitable investment in IT. Currently, the Humanitarian crises are such that IT systems are no longer an optional expenditure. They are now a necessary measure that needs to be taken in order to start building a powerful network among NGOs with fully integrated databases, leveraging all their resources and eliminating redundancies throughout their supply chain.

The World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul on May 23-24, called for more investments specifically in local capabilities and in fostering peaceful and inclusive societies and institutions, as well as underlying the importance of “efficient funding” and “engagement with local actors”. However, the Summit still did not present sustainable solutions. Short comings in approaching the Humanitarian aid model with a business mindset can be the origin of these failures.


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