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Platform Humanitarianism

– LIGHTest Community

Platform capitalism can benefit the aid sector, but only if it’s done with humanitarian values in mind

In this piece, author Karl Steinacker explores the intersections between "platform capitalism" and humanitarian aid, arguing for an increased use of platform logic within the aid sector.

Observing the trend towards large firms transforming themselves into platforms – i.e. businesses that act as suppliers by hosting the products and services of others – Steinacker suggests that borrowing some of the same logic could benefit the humanitarian sector.

Firms are not the only entities that manage platforms. Governments are also increasingly using the platform model to provide state services to their citizens – this makes it cheaper and easier to manage the supply of services and allows governments to collect valuable data on users.

Some humanitarian organizations have also developed platforms – for instance, Reliefweb and Devex – which are primarily targeted at aid workers. There are also a number of reunification platforms that aim to help refugees find missing relations. However, Steinacker observes that there is no global humanitarian platform dedicated to aid delivery.

In order to exploit the benefits of platform logic in the humanitarian sector, Steinacker suggests a number of principles that aid platforms should follow, many of which echo the core values at the heart of creating ID systems that are "good" for all:

  • Allow users to control whether or not they are included in humanitarian databases;
  • Ensure accessibility, allowing users without language skills to navigate the platform;
  • Encourage competition in service provision and provide users with choice;
  • Guarantee transparency whilst protecting user privacy;
  • Allow platform members to obtain certifications of their legal and digital identities;
  • Incorporate legal oversight and regulation;
  • Limit and ensure transparency of data collection.

With these paradigms in mind, Steinacker concludes, humanitarian organisations can better support aid recipients and reap the benefits of platform capitalism, whilst simultaneously maintaining the inherent values at the heart of the aid industry.

The ongoing digital transformation is about to change traditional ways of aid delivery: a sack of rice was yesterday - today smart cards and cash machines take over

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