WHO IS ANDREJ VERITY?
Andrej works for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), but has acted as an “intrapreneur” by founding Humanitarian ID, a single contact management solution for humanitarian emergencies. Andrej also operates Verity Think, his own personal blog.
Andrej remarked that he arrived to the humanitarian aid space having already acquired an IT background. While living in the Philippines where his wife had secured a job, he began working with the UN and eventually received an invitation to work on a UNDP initiative in North Korea.
“Because I was willing to go somewhere that many other people weren’t, it provided an easier opportunity to get into that space.”
Humanitarian ID, Andrej’s single contact management solution, attempts to decentralize management of contact lists by following Foursquare’s and Facebook’s innovative check-in tools. Moving forward, Andrej would like to continue his work in this area by reviewing how the humanitarian community handles 3W Data (Who What and Where).
Andrej takes great value in technologically-based, collaborative tools, and he hopes that the sector will continue to move in a direction where “collaborative tools will become much more of a reality.” Within contact management, Humanitarian ID, along with the GDelt Project and Humanitarian Exchange Language continue to combine their data in the hopes that something innovative will result.
Andrej Verity is a disaster responder and information management officer for the United Nations (OCHA) and co-founder of the Digital Humanitarian Network. He has deployed to many high-profile emergencies over while also leading innovation around humanitarian information management and managing the UN’s collaboration with the volunteer and technical communities. Most recently, his work has supported and focused on how big data in crisis, microtasking and artificial intelligence can improve disaster response.
Andrej openly shares his ideas in the hope of finding energetic collaborative partners to help move the humanitarian community forward at http://blog.veritythink.com.
IN TOR 076 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Humanitarian ID, a contact management application.
- Andrej’s path into the humanitarian and information technology sectors.
- The growing importance of technology and contact list management in humanitarian aid.
- Andrej’s advice for “Making It” in development and aid.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
- Digital Humanitarian Network
- Andrej’s Blog
- Humanitarian ID
- United Nations Development Programme
- World Health Organization
- 3W Data
- GDELT Project
- Humanitarian Exchange Language
- Google Crisis Response
- 3D Printing
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
The man from Geneva
Andrej works for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
His specialty is information, data, development of information systems.
From Geneva he serves 30+ branch offices.
Works on global policy, training. Focus is development support.
Current initiative is Humanitarian ID, how to better manage contact lists in emergencies.
Works with Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN).
Focus on emergencies.
Did Andrej find or stumble upon greatness?
Andrej has a CS and data background.
Worked on the Philippines, then landed the data development program job.
Got very involved in humanitarian work.
2002 In New Zealand, an opening in North Korea with OCHA.
Highly skilled, project management professionals don’t want to go to DPRK.
They had just announced nuclear capabilities. “Imagine my family’s response to the news.“
“It was a fantastic opportunity.“
He remained in OCHA, moves to New York.
He realized the value OCHA gives to data in humanitarian contexts. “Satisfying.“
Leaps and bounds
The DPRK opportunity was too exciting to pass up, despite wife and long-term plans.
She worked with UNICEF. “I brought her into semi-humanitarian work as well.“
DPRK is safe, and the challenges on a personal level were overcome.
Humanitarian ID is the result of the many project management in emergency issues
Haiti earthquake revealed the need for unified contact lists. They set up a hub in the airport.
It was easy to collect people who came to Haiti but no easy way to verify if they remained.
Responders trying to contact other responders through the contact list did not turn out to be fruitful.
“There has to be a better way!“
Check-in apps and social media feature were an inspiration.
The solution is live but piloting, early stages.
500 responders in the Philippines.
Responders edit info or check out, everyone else is in the loop.
Will roll out globally, will have new features.
Unstable networks are issues.
Philippines was easy because of distance and connections.
Harsher environments “I’m not that worried about.“
The focus will still be individuals.
People will be able to build their own lists.
Challenges are awareness, integrating solutions across organizations.
That is why Humanitarian ID tries not to associate with OCHA so it doesn’t feel imposing.
People can customize it, own it.
“We have the funding” from OCHA.
It’s an advantage against other initiatives who need to bootstrap, find revenue.
There is a lot of failure–ahem, ‘learning’ on the field.
Leaders across organizations had expectations, a challenge to sort through. It becomes more difficult than the technical stuff.
Concepts can be cool but people needs to be behind it, use it, otherwise it dies.
For Humanitarian ID, Andrej fine-tuned a data request schedule.
Partners complained, OCHA requested contact information repeatedly, it revealed a focus on assembly and functionality was as important if not more than the data collection.
There are some projects.
3W Data: Centralized tool and standardization, tagging, cleaning.
GDELT aggregates data.
How to provide a platform for responders, to quickly respond to emergencies.
Technical tools have become better. “We’re able to do things we weren’t years ago.“
But why he thought
Andrej blogs, 3 years now.
Good ideas, thoughts.
“I just want my ideas out there, if they’re not final, as long as they spawn other people’s thinking.“
Talk with Google Crisis Response.
Exchanging ideas does have an effect on the community.
3D Printing. He blogged, they saw it, they developed ideas.
OCHA needs to be in the loop on Andrej’s writing due to his association.
He sees himself as a teacher, which is a 24/7 occupation.
“Be willing to go where others aren’t.” Disaster, humanitarian crisis zones.
Ideas by themselves are no good. “Be ready to backup.“
“Don’t stop trying, innovating.“
At times of crisis, organizations are more malleable, willing to entertain far out ideas. “So don’t forget them.“
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or Andrej, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask me directly, head on over to the Ask Stephen section. Don’t be shy! Every question is important and I answer every single one.
And, if you truly enjoyed this episode and want to make sure others know about it, please share it now:
Also, ratings and reviews on iTunes are very helpful. Please take a moment to leave an honest review for The TOR Podcast!