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Diane Coyle Responds to Criticisms of UN/Vodafore Report

Guest Blogger: Diane Coyle, lead author of UN/Vodafone Report

The tone of some comments about our report has surprised and disappointed me. It should go without saying that a report-as opposed to a catalog-could never include all the technologies and applications available in this exciting field now.

We selected examples that illustrated relevant aspects of the use of communications and information in the context of an emergency or conflict. The selection methodology was that they should be good illustrations of innovative uses, covering a reasonable spread of technologies, users and countries. In addition, we played to our own strengths in terms of the technologies and approaches we know well, meaning that we understood thoroughly the contribution they can make.

What’s more, this is not an academic report, which some of the criticisms ignored. It is meant to be accessible to a general audience, especially practitioners and policy makers. Why on earth would we include a literature review?

Some comments simply seemed to have missed the point, and no doubt I could have spelled some things out more clearly. For example, the point made in the document about Cyclone Nargis is precisely that even in contexts which hold no promise for humanitarian agencies to introduce new information-rich technologies, very simple low-tech information can still help build community resilience.

Having said that, I am really grateful for comments which pointed out a few factual errors and infelicities, and I hope we can correct them soon. I’m confident that the report makes an important contribution in highlighting the potential for the latest technologies in this field, and the obstacles to realization of that potential.