Whenever disaster strikes, humanitarian aid organisations need data to distribute resources and rebuild communities.

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) can’t use high tech tools in disaster struck countries, however, because there isn’t connectivity on the ground.

A new report highlights how they use more low tech means – collecting data through text messages, audio recordings and phone calls. This approach enabled them to collect seven times more data in 2015 than in 2014.

In Goma, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the public can call in to a toll-free number to check out food prices, food distribution and leave messages. This provides real time data on need.

WFP also first collected food price data in the city by sending university students down to markets who sent text messages with commodity prices.

The team has pooled the data and published it on a central portal, so other humanitarian bodies can plan their aid response. It highlights food consumption, coping methods and food prices, and is integrated with APIs to ensure that others can use the data.


Image by DFID – UK Department for International Development, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0