Many civil society and humanitarian organisations are people-centric. They seek to serve other humans in a massive variety of ways. And a large aspect of our frontline work is trust, relationships, and being human. Our frontline staff need to be able to connect, empathise, and be present.
Unfortunately, in our efforts to use technology and ‘go digital’ we becomes focused on the technology. The data becomes the end goal rather than the engagement with the person. The film ‘I, Daniel Blake‘ is a poignant depiction of how things can go wrong; when the person is forgotten.
Technology can help us ‘see’ things we did not before. Data and technology can help us improve our services, change our operating models. Going digital can reduce the non-essential, repetitive tasks our frontline staff need to do.
But we also need to ask ‘what is the appropriate use of technology is this situation?’ Appropriate is chosen intentionally as it is subjective and debatable. And that’s the point, it needs to be debated. The answer can not only be based on a financial metric of one task. The whole system and the purpose for the organisation existing needs to be considered.
Going digital should not strip out our humanity. Going digital should reduce the mundane tasks so that we can be more human. So that our frontline staff have more time to connect, to empathise, to be human with those affected.
If it doesn’t, maybe we should be asking different questions.