How will interoperable systems and data sharing benefit affected populations?

How will interoperable systems and data sharing benefit affected populations?

In a world where crises and migrations are increasingly complex, the journey of individuals like Fatima, a migrant in search of both financial aid and continuous healthcare, highlights the challenges faced due to disconnected humanitarian systems.

Just consider the journey of Fatima, a migrant in need of cash assistance and continuity of health care. On her migratory route, Fatima crosses regions and seeks assistance from humanitarian service points served by different humanitarian organisations. But their siloed mode of operation means that even organisations which are part of the same consortium or working group do not allow interoperability and data sharing between them. This is despite considerable investment in coordinating their work across various humanitarian service points. As such, humanitarian actors lack the efficiency, effectiveness and quality programming that interoperability could bring them.

This great lack of efficient and secured data sharing and interoperability extends even to organisations that are grouped and set up successfully in formal and informal structures, such as clusters, consortia and working groups. Yet there are remarkable and growing efforts to enable and improve coordination between actors in a response. So if coordination is improving, why isn’t interoperability and data sharing? Of course, there are opportunities for system interoperability and data sharing between organisations to enable a more people-centred approach and achieve efficiency and effectiveness in programming. For instance, registration duplication could come from the lack of interoperability between organizations but also from systems not being easy for affected populations to use.

How siloed systems affect people on the move

The current state of consortium and working group coordination forces Fatima to re-register and repeat the same story to member organisations of the same consortium or working group to receive cash assistance at humanitarian service points along her migratory route. Her experience can be further complicated if there are language barriers that prevent her from explaining her diagnosis or required medications. Thus, siloed systems can deny Fatima access to essential assistance such as humanitarian cash and continuity of quality health care. Organisations’ services could be better tailored to fit needs if more is understood about a person’s ‘assistance journey’. A look at the journey of Fatima, the complexity of crises, the diversity of actors, technological advances and the growing interest from the private sector shows an urgent need to enable interoperability between organisations.

In addition, 80% of cash is distributed through three central humanitarian bodies: the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, UN agencies and international NGOs (INGOs). This means that 4 of 5 of Fatima’s interactions at humanitarian service points on her route are likely to be with a National Society, the IFRC, the ICRC, a UN agency or an INGO for cash assistance at humanitarian service points on her route. She is also more likely to be referred by one or more of these organisations to another for additional assistance, such as health care. Coordination efforts at the level of clusters, consortia and cash working groups provide a solid foundation to enable the interoperability of systems used for cash assistance and data sharing for referrals.

For the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, UN agencies and INGOs, interoperability can mean better coordination. Processes can be effectively and efficiently automated for participating organisations. This can support deduplication of individuals and households or data sharing for individual referrals to other organisations offering relevant services. With the interoperability of systems, deduplicating individuals and households can be less of a nightmare and waste fewer valuable resources. Existing coordination mechanisms such as clusters can coordinate work on interoperability.

Properly enabled interoperability and secure data sharing between organisations can provide Fatima with more access, privacy, empowerment and a dignified experience when seeking and receiving humanitarian assistance.

What’s next for DIGID?

Following landscape mapping work on interoperability, the Dignified Identities in Cash Assistance (DIGID) team is focusing on system research and the risks and threats model to embark on the interoperability roadmap to enable great interoperability and secure data sharing, jointly with the Collaborative Cash Delivery (CCD) network. DIGID’s landscape mapping report revealed factors driving and limiting greater interoperability in the context of cash and voucher assistance (CVA) and highlighted four use cases as pain points in the CVA business process. For more information or contributions to the project, please visit the IFRC Interoperability page.