How To Share Data Safely And Effectively In Humanitarian Cash Assistance 

How To Share Data Safely And Effectively In Humanitarian Cash Assistance 

Data sharing and interoperability are essential for delivering humanitarian cash assistance to people in need. But how can humanitarian organizations share data in a secure, ethical, and efficient way? And what are the technical challenges and opportunities for improving data-sharing practices? 

In this blog post, we summarize the findings of a research project led by the Dignified Identities in Cash Assistance (DIGID) consortium, funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). The project aims to strengthen the humanitarian sector’s ability to securely share data related to identifying affected people and the services provided to them. 

What is interoperability, and why does it matter? 

Interoperability can be understood as the ability of different organizations and systems to collaborate by sharing and analyzing data and resources to facilitate operational processes and meet the needs of affected populations. Interoperability is more than just a technical issue. It involves interdependent legal, organizational, semantic, and technical aspects that require alignment and coordination among stakeholders. For example, interoperability requires clear agreements on data protection, common standards on data formats and meanings, and effective data exchange and integration mechanisms. 

Interoperability is essential for cash and voucher assistance (CVA), which offers tremendous scale and leverage when using digital channels but also requires more coordination and sharing of data with a broader range of stakeholders, including private-sector financial institutions. 

The project focuses on two specific use cases for data sharing and interoperability in CVA: deduplication of affected people and referrals of individuals. 

Deduplication of Affected People 

Deduplication is comparing lists of target people to eliminate any unintentional duplicates. This is important to avoid double payments, ensure fair and equitable assistance distribution, and reduce fraud and corruption. 

The project found that the most common approach for deduplication is a single registry managed by a ‘host’ organization, which collects and reconciles the data from all participating organizations. However, this approach can pose challenges regarding data security, protection, quality, and governance. For example, some organizations may be reluctant to share their data with a host organization with more power and control over the data or operate under a different legal regime. 

The project also explored alternative approaches for deduplication, such as a jointly managed registry, where all participating organizations have equal access and visibility to the data, or a data stewardship model, where a neutral third party facilitates the data sharing process and ensures data protection and accountability. 

Referrals of individuals 

Referrals are when an organization cannot provide the services that an individual or household requires and directs them to another organization that can. This is important to ensure that people receive the appropriate and comprehensive assistance.  

The project found that the simplest and most common way to share data for referrals is to send a spreadsheet in an email. This approach is straightforward and low-cost but also insecure and inefficient. For example, sending personal data via email can expose it to unauthorized access or misuse, and requiring beneficiaries to register again with another organization can create duplication and frustration. 

The project also explored alternative referral approaches, such as using APIs to enable automated and secure data exchange or using case management systems to enable more transparent and coordinated service delivery. 

Lessons and recommendations 

The project identified several lessons and recommendations for improving data sharing and interoperability in CVA, such as: 

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different contexts and use cases require different technical approaches and operating models. The project evaluated the potential of emerging technologies, such as zero-knowledge proof, multiparty computation, and distributed ledger technology, to address some of the challenges in current approaches but also recognized the limitations and trade-offs of each option. 
  • Data standardization is key. Regardless of the technical solution, effective data sharing requires alignment on data standards, such as the definition of data fields, the format of data, and the meaning of data. The project highlighted the need to develop and adopt common data standards for CVA and build on existing efforts in other sectors and domains. 
  • Interoperability is not just a technical challenge. Achieving and maintaining interoperability also requires addressing the legal, organizational, and governance aspects. The project emphasized the need to develop and implement data-sharing agreements, data protection policies, data responsibility guidelines, and data governance frameworks and build stakeholder trust and collaboration. 


Data sharing and interoperability are critical for delivering effective and dignified humanitarian cash assistance. The project provides a technical landscaping of the current state and future possibilities of data sharing in CVA and offers insights and recommendations for improving interoperability in the sector. The project also plans to conduct a proof-of-concept pilot after a successful technical validation using a prototype in simulated environment. 

To learn more about the project and access the full reports, please visit