Innovation benefits and risks – balancing the aspects

by | Apr 8, 2021 | Insights and Inspirations

Innovation, efficiency, cybersecurity, resilience, are some of the values all humanitarian organisations strive to excel at. There is a price to pay: one cannot be good at everything; the art is to find the right balance. Extreme efficiency tends to be vulnerable to disrupting factors, thus may be less resilient, just like an innovation workstream that needs to deal with a higher likelihood of failure can bear a higher cybersecurity risk by nature.


Digital transformation impacts the way humanitarian organisations deliver their services

Tamás Földesi

Digital transformation impacts the way humanitarian organisations deliver their services to the affected communities, piloting technologies like Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, blockchain, biometric identification, digital payment, unmanned aerial vehicles, peer-to-peer donations, mobile technologies in a humanitarian context have their own very specific risks. To use one example: privacy and data protection risk has a potential to materialise later in the future, thus using digital IDs, biometrics or AI may have immediate benefits on delivering humanitarian services while it may also have adverse long-term effects on communities if the information gets misused.



While the success of these innovative initiatives can effectively improve humanitarian assistance, their failures may endanger the communities, and they may not be beneficial to all affected individuals, therefore assessing the potential impacts and taking conscious decisions involving the communities is a step that must planned for prior to engaging in these pilots.



Finding the right balance between innovation and cyber risk is a journey where failures may cost lives and impact livelihoods. Undergoing a Digital Transformation is the right time to adopt a formal risk assessment framework and use it to assess each initiative that the organisation plans to support. Benefits must be assessed from the perspective of the humanitarian organisation and the affected individuals, and both short-term and long-term benefits/risks must be considered.

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