Publications

    3/2022. Health Technologies and Innovations to Effectively Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA.Abstract

    The COVID-19 pandemic marks one of the greatest global challenges experienced this century. It has led to more than 20 million reported infections and caused more than 800 000 deaths world-wide. Despite attempts at lifting restrictions for lock-downs and seeking ways “back” to a “new normal”, we are far from a stable transition to a new normal life.

    Digital Health solutions have already been used in many ways from tracking and tracing apps to deep learning for analysis of computerized tomography images or audio-based diagnosis and early symptom recognition. However, there are many technologies and innovations that remain unexploited with vast potential in improving the reliability, trustability, usability, and explainability of healthcare services: including the speed and quality of diagnosis, healthcare process and results. In addition, novel technology solutions and innovations to adapt processes and technologies are desperately needed. Further, there is a need for new regulatory pathways and processes for rapid testing, approval and integration of these new technologies into practice.

    Many opportunities for the development and application of health technologies and digital health exist in the global fight against Coronavirus that concerns all of us.

    In this light, this Research Topic aims to explore new approaches and scientific developments that enable and accelerate the adoption and diffusion of health technology innovations in health systems to improve the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The collection will bring together novel technologies, innovations and approaches, including studies and cases from a highly interdisciplinary point of view to harness strengths and perspectives of diverse experts.

    Topic of interest include but are not limited to:

    1. Digital data
    2. E-health/M-health
    3. New production methods for rapid and flexible manufacturing at scale for:
    4. Digital health care
    Erica Nelson and Saira Khan. 8/2021. Climate and Migration in East and the Horn of Africa: Spatial Analysis of Migrants’ Flows Data.Abstract

    The drivers of human displacement are becoming more and more complex, ranging from conflict and persecution to the increasingly pertinent variables of heightened mobility and social media influences. Of rapidly but appropriately escalating concern is the impact of climate change. While the intensity and severity of climate-induced disasters and climate-related migration will be unevenly distributed across space and time, the World Bank estimates that approximately 140 million people will be displaced globally due to climate-related reasons by 2050. The effects of climate change are expected to be particularly pronounced in Africa, where rising temperatures, unpredictable anomalous rainfall and high vulnerability to extreme natural hazards will continue to exacerbate conflict and harm local and regional human, economic, and environmental security.

    In the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA) in particular, the dependence on rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism means that livelihoods and food security are inextricably linked and affected by long-term or sudden environmental changes and natural hazards. The extreme natural hazards that have struck EHoA in recent years have caused widespread hunger, displacement, loss of critical infrastructure and livelihoods, and death

    In an effort to understand the complex variables that influence migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) developed the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) to track and gather information about populations on the move. The Flow Monitoring Registry (FMR) captures a wealth of data about the migratory routes, the demographics and nationality of migrants, reasons for migration, modes of transportation used to facilitate movement, and vulnerabilities experienced by these populations. While the descriptive data provides a wealth of information, more can be done to analyze the complexities of and interactions between migration, conflict, environmental changes, and climate-related events. Climate projections further suggest that environmental changes will likely further lead to decreased water availability, lowered agricultural productivity, and increased disease transmission in the region, producing complex ramifications regarding local and regional conflicts, economics, politics, and migration.

    The porous borders in EHoA have contributed to some of the highest volumes of cross border movement in the world. In 2020 alone, EHoA hosted 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 3.5 million refugees and asylum seekers.6 In the same year, the Horn of Africa experienced unusually high levels of precipitation leading to disastrous floods and landslides and creating ideal conditions for an detrimental locust plague towards the end of 2019 that devastated crops and disrupted livelihoods. The extreme precipitation experienced across much of the Horn in 2019 was preceded by anomalous rainfall the previous year. 2018 was particularly hot and dry in the Horn of Africa, with positive temperature anomalies of around 2°C and below-average precipitation contributing to drought-like conditions in Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti while Kenya and Sudan experienced above-average precipitation.8 The drought-like conditions in Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti contributed to widespread food insecurity that affected approximately 12 million people. These extreme weather conditions are increasingly exacerbating the already complex and interconnected factors driving migration in the Horn of Africa, and are only expected to escalate in the future.

    For this study, the IOM RDH in Nairobi partnered with the Humanitarian Geoanalytics Program at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to leverage spatial analytics to investigate migration flows in the East and Horn of Africa and Yemen. Geospatial analytics hold tremendous potential to introduce new ways of thinking, build research capacity, study impacts, and facilitate costeffective programming. The adoption of geospatial methods into research oriented towards populations on the move, gives us the capacity to accurately characterize the spatial heterogeneity of migrating populations. Furthermore, by incorporating environmental variables into this spatial analysis, we begin to reveal relationships previously undiscovered that could contribute to a richer understanding regarding migration in the region.

    Erica Nelson, Saira Khan, Swapna Thorve, and P. Gregg Greenough. 12/2020. “Modeling pastoralist movement in response to environmental variables and conflict in Somaliland: Combining agent-based modeling and geospatial data.” PLOS ONE.Abstract

    This study explores how pastoralists respond to changing environments in Somaliland . An agent-based model is used to simulate the movement of nomadic pastoralists based on typologically diverse, historical data of environmental, interpersonal, and transactional variables in Somaliland and Puntland between 2008 and 2018. Through subsequent application of spatial analysis such as choropleth maps, kernel density mapping, and standard deviational ellipses, we characterize the resultant pastoralist population distribution in response to these variables.

    Sonny Patel, Omar Moncayo, Kristina Conroy, Doug Jordan, and Timothy Erickson. 9/2020. “The Landscape of Disinformation on Health Crisis Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ukraine: Hybrid Warfare Tactics, Fake Media News and Review of Evidence.” Journal of Science Communication. Read PublicationAbstract

    The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world in ways not seen since the 1918–1920 Spanish Flu. Disinformation campaigns targeting health crisis communication during this pandemic seek to cripple the medical response to the novel coronavirus and instrumentalize the pandemic for political purposes. Propaganda from Russia and other factions is increasingly infiltrating public and social media in Ukraine. Still, scientific literature has only a limited amount of evidence of hybrid attacks and disinformation campaigns focusing on COVID-19 in Ukraine. We conducted a review to retrospectively examine reports of disinformation surrounding health crisis communication in Ukraine during the COVID-19 response. Based on the themes that emerged in the literature, our recommendations are twofold: 1) increase transparency with verified health crisis messaging and, 2) address the leadership gap in reliable regional information about COVID-19 resources and support in Ukraine.

    Krzysztof Goniewicz, Maciej Magiera, Dorota Rucińska, Witold Pawłowski, Frederick M. Burkle Jr., Attila J. Hertelendy, and Mariusz Goniewicz. 5/2020. “Geographic Information System Technology: Review of the Challenges for Its Establishment as a Major Asset for Disaster and Emergency Management in Poland.” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.Abstract

    Technical and technological progress in the 21st century, especially emerging geographic information system (GIS) technology, offers new and unprecedented opportunities to counteract the impact of crisis situations and emergencies. Computerization and development of GIS enabled the digital visualization of space for interactive analysis of multiple data in the form of models or simulations. Additionally, computerization, which gives rise to a new quality of database management, requires continuous modernization of computer hardware and software. This study examines selected examples of the implications and impact of the GIS commonly used in Poland.

    Signal Program. 3/2020. Displacement & Destruction: Analysis of Idlib, Syria 2017-2020.Abstract
    As the Syrian civil war enters its tenth year on  March 15, the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology conducted satellite imagery analysis to capture the rapid expansion of displaced people’s camps and the widespread impact of aerial bombardment in Idlib, Syria. This work was completed in collaboration with Save the Children and World Vision International. On 1 March 2020, the UN estimated that 961,286 individuals have been displaced since December 1, 2019; this is the largest mass displacement and acute humanitarian crisis since the  Syrian conflict began in 2012. Analyzing two internally displaced person (IDP) camps, the Signal team found that the camp areas analyzed increased by approximately 100% and 177% respectively between September 2017 and February 2020. Camp growth between December 2019 and 2020 revealed new structures and further construction, consistent with a significant influx of displaced persons.  The UN Human Rights Council reports that between May 2019 and January 2020, aerial bombardment and a surge of ground-level assaults contributed to a wave of IDPs throughout Idlib as civilian areas were repeatedly targeted. Signal’s analysis of two areas in conflict-affected towns in southern Idlib found that approximately 30% of structures were damaged; this figure likely underestimates the total damage.
    Saira Khan, Isaac Baker, and Rob Baker. 11/2019. Satellite Imagery Interpretation Guide of Landscape Features in Somaliland.Abstract

    This guide outlines the tools and techniques to establish a foundation for visual analysis and discusses how these techniques can assist in identifying notable landscape features pertaining to agriculture, settlements, water catchment, and livestock in northern Somalia. To the knowledge of the Signal Program analysts, there is no systematic open-source remote sensing documentation of frequently occurring natural and man-made features in Somalia. This guide helps users to identify and analyze these features, particularly humanitarian practitioners supporting activities in the Horn of Africa. This project, titled “Children on the Move: Using Satellite Data Analysis in Conflict/Famine-Affected Areas,” was carried out in collaboration with UNICEF, the GovLab at NYU, and the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

    Saira Khan, Rob Baker, Caitlin Howarth, Erica Nelson, Isaac Baker, Natalia Adler, and Stefaan Verhulst. 11/2019. Lessons Learned Report: Using Satellite Data Analysis in Conflict/Famine-Affected Areas.Abstract
    This report captures the lessons learned during a project titled, “Children on the Move: Using Satellite Data Analysis in Conflict/Famine-Affected Areas.” This document details the project’s progression and the rationale for transitioning from satellite imagery analysis to agent-based modeling as the primary mode of analysis. This project was conducted in collaboration with the Governance Lab at New York University, the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and UNICEF. 
    Mark Latonero, Danielle Poole, and Jos Berens. 3/2018. Refugee Connectivity: A Survey of Mobile Phones, Mental Health, and Privacy at a Syrian Refugee Camp in Greece.Abstract
    The report, Refugee Connectivity: A Survey of Mobile Phones, Mental Health, and Privacy at a Syrian Refugee Camp in Greece, is the result of 2017 field research by Data & Society, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s (HHI) Signal Program on Human Security and Technology, and Centre for Innovation at Leiden University. Lead authors of the report are Mark Latonero, Ph.D. of Data & Society, Danielle Poole of HHI/Signal and the Harvard School of Public Health, and Jos Berens, formerly of Leiden University. 
    Phuong Pham and Patrick Vinck. 2/2018. “Human Rights and Mixed Methods.” Chance, 31, 1, Pp. 29-37. Read PublicationAbstract
    Research in the field of human rights can have many goals. Among others, it serves to uncover and document evidence of crimes, seeks to tell the stories of victims and survivors, and strives to inform and influence policies and strategies to deal with human rights violations. Most commonly, it is defines as seeking to uncover "the truth" - what happened, to whom, by whom, where, when, how, and how many were effected. 
    International Committee Red of the Cross and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. 2/2018. Engaging with People Affected by Armed Conflicts and Other Situations of Violence: Recommendations for Humanitarian Organizations and Donors in the Digital Era.Abstract

    ICRC & the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) launch a joint discussion paper that provides recommendations for humanitarian organisations and donors in today's digital era.

    Based on a review of the relevant literature and interviews with representatives of the humanitarian sector, donors, and community-based organizations, the paper offers an overview of how the humanitarian community currently engages with people affected by armed conflict and violence; a review of the opportunities and challenges for meaningful engagement; and a series of recommendations for both humanitarian organizations and donors.

    Caitlin Howarth. 9/2017. “A Rights-based Approach to Information in Humanitarian Assistance.” PLOS Currents: Disasters. Read PublicationAbstract
    Crisis-affected populations and humanitarian aid providers are both becoming increasingly reliant on information and communications technology (ICTs) for finding and provisioning aid. This is exposing critical, unaddressed gaps in the legal and ethical frameworks that traditionally defined and governed the professional conduct of humanitarian action. The most acute of these gaps is a lack of clarity about what human rights people have regarding information in disaster, and the corresponding obligations incumbent upon governments and aid providers.  This need is lent urgency by emerging evidence demonstrating that the use of these technologies in crisis response may be, in some cases, causing harm to the very populations they intend to serve.  Preventing and mitigating these harms, while also working to responsibly ensure access to the benefits of information during crises, requires a rights-based framework to guide humanitarian operations. In this brief report, we provide a commentary that accompanies our report, the Signal Code: A Human Rights Approach to Information During Crisis, where we have identified five rights pertaining to the use of information and data during crisis which are grounded in current international human rights and customary law. It is our belief that the continued relevance of the humanitarian project, as it grows increasingly dependent on the use of data and ICTs, urgently requires a discussion of these rights and corresponding obligations.
    Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Nathaniel A. Raymond. 5/2017. “Beyond the Protective Effect: Towards a Theory of Harm for Information Communication Technologies in Mass Atrocity Response.” Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 11, 1, Pp. 9-24. Read PublicationAbstract
    Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are now being employed as a standard part of mass atrocity response, evidence collection, and research by non-governmental organizations, governments, and the private sector. Deployment of these tools and techniques occur for a variety of stated reasons, most notably the ostensible goal of “protecting” vulnerable populations. However, these often experimental applications of ICTs and digital data are occurring in the absence of agreed normative frameworks and accepted theory to guide their ethical and responsible use. This article surveys the current state-of-the-art of ICT use in mass atrocity response and research to identify harms and hazards inherent in the use of ICT-centric approaches in mass atrocity producing environments. The article proposes an initial theory of harm for evaluating the potential risks and impacts of these applications as a critical component of developing ethical standards for the responsible use of ICTs in the mass atrocity response context.
    Faine Greenwood, Caitlin Howarth, Danielle Escudero Poole, Nathaniel A. Raymond, and Daniel P. Scarnecchia. 1/2017. The Signal Code: A Human Rights Approach to Information During Crisis.Abstract

     

    The Signal Code is the result of a six month study by the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to identify what human rights people have to information during disasters. The Signal Code identifies five rights from multiple sources of international human rights and humanitarian law and standards that already exist and apply to humanitarian information activities (HIAs). 

    These five rights are the following: 1. The Right to Information; 2. The Right to Protection; 3. The Right to Privacy and Security; 4. The Right to Data Agency; and 5. The Right to Rectification and Redress. The goal of the Signal Code is to provide a foundation for the future development of ethical obligations for humanitarian actors and minimum technical standards for the safe, ethical, and responsible conduct of HIAs before, during, and after disasters strike.

    Visit the Signal Code Minisite

     

    Ziad Al Achkar and Nathaniel Raymond. 11/2016. Data preparedness: connecting data, decision making and humanitarian response .Abstract

    Signal Program Standards and Ethics Series - Issue 1

    Data are a central component of humanitarian response. Frequently, however, there is a disconnect between data, decision-making and response. Informed decisions need to be made in the first hours and days of an emergency, and if the elements to effectively gather, manage and analyse data are not in place before a crisis, then the evidence needed to inform response will not be available quickly enough to matter. What's more, a lack of readiness to use data can even cause "big data disasters".

    Organizations need to be prepared to responsibly and effectively deploy and manage data collection and analysis tools, techniques, skilled staff and strategies in a specific operational context to be ready before a disaster strikes. This process is called “data preparedness”. The concept of data preparedness complements and expands on existing OCHA principles on the use of information management in disaster scenarios. This paper, which was reviewed by OCHA and other UN organizations, seeks to provide a blueprint for how the concept of data preparedness may be put into practice by members of the humanitarian data ecosystem. It is the first issue in the Signal Program's ongoing "Standards and Ethics" white paper series.

    Nathaniel Raymond, Ziad Al Achkar, Stefaan Verhulst, and Jos Berens. 5/2016. OCHA Think Brief: Building Data Responsibility into Humanitarian Action.Abstract

    Building data responsibility into humanitarian action is the first UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs think brief to explore what constitutes the responsible use of data in humanitarian response. It was co written by the Signal Program, NYU Gov Lab and the Center for Innovation at Leiden University.

    This paper identifies the critical issues humanitarians face as they strive to responsibly use data in operations. It also proposes an initial framework for data responsibility.

    Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Bridget Marchesi, Doug Johnson, Peter J. Dixon, and Kathryn Sikkink. 3/2016. “Evaluating Transitional Justice: The Role of Multi-Level Mixed Methods Datasets and the Colombia Reparation Program for War Victims.” Transitional Justice Review, 1, 4. Read PublicationAbstract
    This paper examines the role of mixed and multi-level methods datasets used to inform evaluations of transitional justice mechanisms. The Colombia reparation program for victims of war is used to illustrate how a convergent design involving multiple datasets can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a complex transitional justice mechanism. This was achieved through a unique combination of (1) macro-level analysis enabled by a global dataset of transitional justice mechanisms, in this case the reparations data gathered by the Transitional Justice Research Collaborative, (2) meso-level data gathered at the organizational level on the Unidad para las Victimas (Victims Unit), the organization in charge of implementing the reparations program and overseeing the domestic database of victims registered in the reparations program, and (3) micro-level population- based perception datasets on the Colombian reparations program collected in the Peacebuilding Data database. The methods used to define measures, access existing data, and assemble new datasets are discussed, as are some of the challenges faced by the inter-disciplinary team. The results illustrate how the use of global, domestic, and micro- level datasets together yields high quality data, with multiple perspectives permitting the use of innovative evaluation methods and the development of important findings and recommendations for transitional justice mechanisms.
    Ziad Al Achkar, Isaac L. Baker, and Nathaniel A. Raymond. 3/2016. Imagery Interpretation Guide: Assessing Wind Disaster Damage to Structures.Abstract

    At present, accepted methodologies for wind disaster damage assessments rely almost exclusively on responders having ground access to the affected area to document damage to housing structures.  This approach can prove both time consuming and inefficient, and does not support the use of drones and satellites.

    Geospatially-based damage assessments offer potential improvements to this process in terms of providing responding agencies with previously unavailable information about hard to reach, often non-permissive environments, at a scale and speed not possible through ground-based counts of damaged structures.

    This guide provides the first standard method for conducting these types of damage assessments through the analysis of drone and satellite imagery. The “BAR Methodology” has been developed by the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at HHI to address this critical gap in this evolving area humanitarian practice.

    Patrick Vinck and Phuong Pham. 1/2016. Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Polls: Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Poll Report #5 .Abstract
    This poll is the fifth in a series of polls that will be conducted to provide reliable data and analysis on peace, security, justice and reconstruction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project is a joint initiative of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with MONUSCO Civil Affairs. HHI is responsible for the data collection, and independent analysis, and reporting of the results, in collaboration with partners at the Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs, Université Catholique de Bukavu, and Université de Bunia.

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