Aidex Voices

Administering aid can be challenging given the remoteness of many of these conflict or disaster zones. Yet new off line solutions are beginning to become available and being used to good advantage, as Jerry Cole from Red Rose explains.

NGOs regularly need ways to respond to those affected by conflict or disaster, giving displaced people financial independence, as opposed to handing out aid in the form of rations. Given the surge in conflict zones over the past few years in war-torn Africa and the Middle East, this need looks set to continue. Until now, aid has generally been administered through paper vouchers, but they have their drawbacks. They can be stolen, lost or torn and they are fiddly and time-consuming to administer.

Not satisfied by using paper vouchers system, post-crisis humanitarian organisation, Mercy Corps, contacted us because they wanted to change the way they provided access to basic services and commodities in Nigeria.

And the new format of using electronic vouchers has made a world of difference for both the beneficiaries and the shopkeepers serving these communities.  

The system works by distributing e-vouchers to the beneficiaries personal smartcards [PIN protected], called The ONEcard, in place of the previously used paper vouchers. The shopkeepers have handheld Android handsets, which allow them to calculate and complete transactions through the ONEapp. So what would have been a lengthy process of counting up and processing the vouchers can now be done with the click of a button.

The shopkeepers have told us that aside from saving them a huge amount of time attending to customers, the new model helps them with their calculations. It is a much more time efficient way for them to conduct business, cutting down the time it takes to complete a transaction to a fraction of the time.

And it’s not just the shopkeepers that are glad to see the back of all that paper, which can be difficult to keep track of. Because everything is now automated, the system allows NGOs, like Mercy Corps, to devote more time to monitoring and evaluating, as they no longer need to use heavy resources to print, distribute and reconcile the paper vouchers. Something which could be an extremely arduous task.

This means they can keep an eye on the functioning of the system remotely – they can see if the cards are being used, whether vendors are having trouble with using the system, and even whether the price of the commodities is too high.