Taking Back The Reins: Creating Sustainable Resilience With ICT

  • Paige Dearing
  • November 19, 2014
Taking Back The Reins: Creating Sustaina

Resilience is the capacity to mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses in ways that reduce vulnerability and facilitate inclusive growth. Simply put, it’s the ability to ‘bounce back’ without significant external support after a catastrophic event.

Shocks and stressors take many forms beyond the extreme climatic events that typically come to mind. Global market volatility, extreme population growth, overburdened services and infrastructure, health challenges, limited education and other inequalities can accelerate social divisions and breed conflict, which both pose huge threats to stability, and ultimately growth.

The recurring crises in Africa and Asia have cost donors and governments billions of dollars. Humanitarian organizations may have short-term success, but many interventions prove to not be sustainable nor do they improve baseline capacity to withstand future shocks and stresses. What’s the solution? According to Shaun Ferris, director of agricultural livelihoods at Catholic Relief Services, implementing new frameworks for resilience and risk management build capacity within vulnerable communities, establish resiliency and allow resources to be redirected for other dire systemic challenges.

For example, 25 percent of Africa’s population lives in dry lands that are susceptible to recurring shocks and stressors. The rising cost of emergency response – versus preparedness, resiliency and risk management – drains development funding. Should focus be on emergencies, or should it be on how investments are made in development and emergency operations?

So if resilience is the answer, how exactly is that achieved?  Strategists seek to integrate emergency and development in a way that puts more emphasis on governance and systems thinking; with this, local agency actors become more involved and conflict resolution is given more attention. Solutions must scale as well as support market-based methods, giving added growth and stability. Overall, more local responsibility and accountability lays the foundation for long-term sustainability, and a shift from responsive relief to institutional risk management mitigates negative impacts caused by stressors.

Unexpected Trends

Technology can enhance all aspects of resiliency planning – from enabling smarter financial models with analytics, feedback loops and transparency to building new information chains, actionable data sets and improved service delivery.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions have already been put in place across the globe to guard against stressors; for example:

  • job searching aids (Jobs Souketl, iMerit),
  • monitoring and evaluation tools (Kimetrica, e-valuate, T-works),
  • weather tracking (Grameen, e-extension),
  • market information (Esoko, IFDC),
  • knowledge sharing (iFormBuilder, Frontlines, DW)
  • and education (Bridge Academies, Digital Green).

The pathway to prosperity is fueled by market forces and boosted by technology. A push to use new tools leads to a need for local skills to support that innovation; that capacity building then equips local populations to be self-sustainable, and even empowered to offer outsourcing services to further spur economic growth. To get there, there needs to be continued innovation, blended funding from grants and private capital and risk management.

(Picture Ab­ove: Shaun Ferris, CRS; slide 14)

(Picture Right: Shaun Ferris, CRS; slide 15)

Civil society needs to champion technology like societies have all across the world, because innovation can simplify complexities and enable new, diverse combinations to better address challenges. With better information and varied funding, risk can be reduced and resilience achieved – giving communities and donors the ability to choose where their investments go, rather than see dollars funneled into responsive relief efforts.

This blog is based on Shaun Ferris’ ‘The role of ICT4d innovation in ‘Building Resilience’ presentation from Catholic Relief Services’ 2014 ICT4D Conference.

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