Helping the Emperor Put Some Clothes On

by | Apr 22, 2022 | ICT4D |

emperor has no clothes

A list of unique individuals (primarily adults) affected by the crisis in Ukraine appears to be a bit of a holy grail at the moment. And yet, it is more a ’emperor has no clothes’ moment than the holy grail we think it is. We can create the list by each organisation registering people affected and sharing some of that data with a central point – an agency or government. Some deduplication scripts are run, potential duplicates found and checks etc. It is a relatively straightforward process, it’s the governance that’s the challenge.

However, assuming the governance challenges are resolved, where does it leave us? With a list, maintained by an entity. This can be helpful if we are implementing one project in a consortium as it helps us to work with unique individuals or households for the project. It can theoretically be helpful for one donor to be able to say their money went to unique individuals and wasn’t doubled up. It even can be helpful for one agency working with multiple donors and multiple projects. But for the whole sector response? I think the emperor might not have any clothes on.

For the list to help the sector response as a whole huge assumptions need to be made. The biggest one being that all the funding and operations are centrally controlled and managed. That a central point would need to allocate out and control which people received what assistance from whom. Across all donors, all agencies, all people. And it just doesn’t work like that. There are always people not registered. Agencies not ‘part of the system’. Agencies with funding coming from private source. And it would consolidate an enormous amount of power (and repsonsibility) in one entity.

So we can create a list, but not an overly useful list.

And yet, if we added a smartcard or wallet to the list, it might add some useful utility. If the central entity was not operational (reduce power). If they would distribute smartcards or wallets to everyone on the list. If these cards/wallets would be what people affected used to access assistance. And if every time an agency interacted with the people, they would ‘write a note’ on the card or in the wallet of what assistance was given. But before providing certain types of assistance (i.e. food or cash allocation) the agency could check if the person already received it from another agency.

Yes, various protection measures would need to be in place. But would this help the emperor put some clothes on?

Photo by Caleb Lucas


  1. Paul Crook

    Interesting perspective and one tracing back to any number of the cash based programming concerns Amos. Particularly in fragile states, we now witness organisations with more data than they can truly control without it being a consideration for privacy and Rights.

  2. Thomas Byrnes

    Hi Amos, very intresting post, I would be interested to have a chat about deduplication work in Ukraine if you have time next week?

    • AmosD

      yes, happy to talk


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