Talking points and key information : Innovation at HI
The European Union Horizon Prize for Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian Aid was launched in 2020. Each prize is awarded to an initiative that addresses major challenges in the field of humanitarian aid. The prizes are proposed into five categories: shelter and related assistance; water, hygiene, and sanitation; energy; health and medical care; and other humanitarian assistance (open category).
HI, as part of the IMPACTE 3D project, is using 3D technology as part of a clinical trial to build dedicated orthosis for one hundred patients in Togo, Niger and Mali. | © Xaume Olleros / HI
HI has won awards in two categories:
“Health and medical care” for the Tele Rehabilitation for All project
“Other humanitarian assistance” for the Odyssey2025/Drones project
The awards will be presented during an online ceremony on 24 September 2020.
This document contains talking points on innovation at HI / they are taken from an interview with Pierre Gallien, Director of 3I (Information, Impact, Innovation) / Innovation and Knowledge Management Division, 10 September 2020.
Three questions for Pierre Gallien, Director of 3I (Information, Impact, Innovation) / Innovation and Knowledge Management Division
1 / What is the aim of innovation at HI?
One of HI’s central objectives is to provide appropriate and effective humanitarian assistance to people unable to live without it. To achieve this goal, we regularly review our actions and methods, and innovation is one of the ways we continuously improve our humanitarian action.
We monitor and select technological developments and social practices (internet, social media, developments in digitalisation, new uses of digital technology, etc.) and integrate them into our operating practices in order to respond to increasingly volatile and unstable humanitarian contexts impacted by the increase in natural disasters, climate change, worsening security conditions for humanitarian workers, etc.
The digitalisation of rehabilitation, of which our telerehabilitation project is an example, will enhance our access to people with humanitarian needs in areas of response where humanitarian workers may face logistical or security challenges.
2 / Where does HI innovate?
Functional rehabilitation and weapons clearance are HI’s priority areas and core competencies. Online physiotherapy sessions, the supply of 3D prostheses, and the use of drones in weapons clearance operations build on HI's long-standing actions.
We have also innovated in the field of inclusive education. We took a highly innovative approach to ensuring the continuous supply of quality assistance during the COVID-19 lockdown, such as organising pandemic awareness sessions on YouTube.
HI restricts its action to a limited number of pilot projects in order to focus on specific sectors and projects with operational applications.
3 / What is special about innovation at HI and in the humanitarian sector?
Innovation at HI needs to be simple and frugal (i.e. inexpensive and resource-sustainable). We work in poor and unstable countries with limited access to technology and energy. Innovations must be easy to access and replicable locally.
Our mine clearance drone project uses large, inexpensive commercial drones that everyone can access. Our 3D prosthesis printers are not the most powerful, but they are affordable and available commercially.
1 / The spirit of innovation at HI
Since it was founded in 1982, innovation has enabled HI to fulfil its historic mission to provide beneficiaries with the most effective services possible.
Innovation helps HI adapt:
HI keeps abreast of technological developments such as the internet and social media, and advances in digitalisation and new uses of digital technology, etc.
Innovation and new practices can give rise to new solutions and efficiency gains in assisting vulnerable people.
HI adapts to changing humanitarian contexts impacted by the increase in natural disasters, climate change, and worsening security conditions for humanitarian workers.
The aim of innovation at HI is to make it easier to access people with humanitarian needs in areas of response where humanitarian workers can face logistical or security constraints.
As we had little or no physical access to beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic, we made changes to our activities in several countries (psychological support sessions by telephone, telerehabilitation, online COVID awareness campaign, etc.).
The source of the latest technological tools, innovation also helps HI develop new working practices and new approaches to providing humanitarian assistance.
2 / Four operational goals of innovation at HI
1 / Better understand our areas of response
When HI launches a humanitarian programme, it may lack knowledge and information on its area of response:
Drones used to support mine clearance operations in Chad, for example, provided deminers with aerial imagery and maps – a valuable source of information on an unfamiliar region.
After a natural disaster, drone or satellite images can provide HI's emergency teams with valuable information on access routes and help logisticians better organise the transport of humanitarian aid and its distribution to people in need.
2 / HI's mandate: providing rehabilitation care to better include people with disabilities
As a reminder: rehabilitation - a form of care that promotes the physical mobility of people with disabilities - is essential to social and professional inclusion. Rehabilitation is HI's core competency. The inclusion of people with disabilities is its raison d’être.
Innovations such as telerehabilitation aim to bring rehabilitation services closer to people with disabilities and ensure the better territorial networking of health services.
In poor or crisis-stricken countries, people with disabilities most often live in remote or hard-to-reach areas without access to the rehabilitation care they need. As a remote service, telerehabilitation makes up for this shortcoming.
3 / Narrowing the gap between experts and beneficiaries
HI's digital innovations aim to bring its beneficiaries and experts (medical, rehabilitation, inclusion, inclusive education, etc.) closer together. HI’s challenge is to make its expertise as widely available as possible.
Our rehabilitation teams can use telerehabilitation to diagnose a person thousands of miles away, receive a scan of their stump, supply them with a prosthesis by printing it in the field, and then provide them with medical assistance.
HI has adapted school lessons to children with disabilities and made them available online in several countries.
4 / A duty of effectiveness
HI innovates to make its actions more effective and provides sustainable solutions to implement immediately.
Logistically, for example, we are weighing up the advantages of using blockchain data management technology to improve the traceability of data on the transport of humanitarian aid
This effectiveness must meet ethical standards in relation to the vulnerable people we assist, including children:
Innovation research at HI is overseen by the organisation’s ethics committee to ensure respect for human dignity (e.g. personal data protection).
3 / Managing innovation at HI
1 / Innovation at HI: frugality
Innovation at HI must be simple and frugal (inexpensive and resource-sustainable).
HI works in poor and unstable countries with limited access to technology and energy. The quality of the service provided to a population always takes priority over the technicality of the tools used.
This is why innovation at HI is always pragmatic and adapted to the context: HI uses tools that are open to the public or reuses past solutions already in the public domain:
Drones used in weapons clearance operations are inexpensive, commercially available, and accessible to all.
Our 3D prosthesis printers are not necessarily the most powerful, but they are affordable and available commercially (the organisation can cover the cost of the investment).
HI is nevertheless mindful of the need for quality humanitarian aid. Frugal innovation must not result in reduced levels of service.
2 / Innovation methodology at HI
Pilot projects at HI are always integrated into ongoing field operations so they can be applied directly in “real-field conditions".
HI allocates sufficient time to its projects, advancing in successive iterations.
Partnerships are also essential to the management of innovation at HI.
HI partners with research organisations, private companies, non-profits, etc. One of its partners this year is the INSA (National Institute of Applied Sciences) in Lyon.
3 / Two priority sectors at HI
Rehabilitation and weapons clearance are two priority sectors for innovation at HI.
HI works on a limited number of pilot projects in order to focus on specific sectors and projects and ensures each has an operational application.
4 / Sharing innovations at HI
HI works to ensure its innovations benefit as many people as possible.