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Accountability goes digital
Olivier Sarrat

Groupe URD and its Spanish partners IECAH carried out a study at the end of 2009 on the computerisation of communication between donors and NGOs. What is the current state of affairs and what benefits could this bring in the future?

Over the decades, the international aid sector has grown and become more professional. This has led to a greater quantity and diversity of information which needs to be managed. The professionalization of the sector is something to be welcomed as it has no doubt improved the quality of humanitarian response. Unfortunately, it has also burdened humanitarian organisations with more and more administrative work as donors have instigated more and more accountability procedures. These have the potential to improve practices as they force humanitarian actors to analyse their actions in more depth, but the fact that the reports requested have so many different formats means that more and more energy is used up dealing with these different administrative obligations which could otherwise be used on actual humanitarian action.

In order to cope with this ever-increasing amount of administrative work a new trend has begun to emerge: the use of New Information and Communication Technology (NICT) to exchange information between donors and NGOs. Examples of these are ECHO’s [1] APPEL system [2] and AECID’s [3] CAP Online project [4]. How common is this kind of project? What is the nature of these developments and what progress has already been made? At the end of 2009, Groupe URD and IECAH [5] conducted a study financed by AECID to find answers to these questions, during which they consulted a large number of donors and UN agencies [6]. This rapid review of the current situation is a necessary first step before being able to answer the underlying question of whether computerisation will allow a more efficient use of time and energy in the production of reports.

[1] ECHO: European Community Humanitarian aid Office.

[2] More information about the APPEL project can be found at:

[3] AECID: Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation) (

[4] More information about the AECID’s CAP Online project can be found at:

[5] IECAH : Instituto de Estudios sobre Conflictos y Acción Humanitaria (Institute of Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action) (

[6] List of organisations who took part in the study: ACDI, AECID, DFID, ECHO, JICA, NORAD, NZAID, SDC, SIDA, USAID, FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNHCR, WFP and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Germany, France, Ireland and the Netherlands.