Understanding the role of mobile technologies for humanitarian relief

WeiHua James Li, Julius Adebayo, Fuming Shih, Lalana Kagal


Smartphones are becoming increasingly useful in disaster management both to provide useful information to victims and to coordinate relief operations. However, a lack of technological expertise as well as considerable amount of time and cost required to build mobile applications prevents the rapid deployment of useful applications by humanitarian organizations for different crises. In this paper, we describe a participatory design workshop that we conducted at the International Committee of Red Cross to identify challenges of adopting mobile technologies within relief organizations. Through this workshop, we identified major challenges associated with developing mobile applications: lengthy development and deployment cycle, costly budget, and frequent requirement changes. We then introduced our framework that enables non-programmers to quickly develop and deploy mobile applications in these situations.  The workshop participants identified three areas where our framework improved upon existing mobile solutions: reducing data integration overhead, fast prototyping for app development, and customization of apps.

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