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Photo: AMISOM Public Information | Public Domain

Using big data to analyse WFP’s digital cash programme in Lebanon

Humanitarian Practice Network

Monday, February 20, 2017

Humanitarian programmes have recently started to shift from delivering in-kind aid – such as food, clothes and tents – to cash-based assistance. According to the New York Times, before 2015, 99% of the world’s humanitarian assistance came in the form of goods. By last year, that number had decreased to 94%.

As of 2016, just over a quarter of the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) assistance worldwide is cash-based (WFP, 2016a and 2016b). This includes both e-vouchers and cash transfers through financial service providers.

This case study explores how the large quantities of data generated by transferring cash digitally could help transform humanitarian programme design, implementation and monitoring.

Both public and private sectors have used "big data" analytics to great effect, for example, to detect fraud in the financial and insurance sectors. Big data has only seen limited use in the humanitarian sector however. To help change this, WFP and the Centre for Innovation (CFI) at Leiden University collaborated on researching how to support food security programming in Lebanon, using data derived from WFP’s cash-based transfer programme there.