Technology in the Field: RapidFTR

22 Aug

I came across this little gem the other day, and thought I would share before the technology becomes obsolete, as technologies so quickly do. This piece was particularly striking to me, not only because it fits in nicely with a growing discussion of how technology will continue to shape the field of development and humanitarian relief in the coming years, but because the technology itself comes straight out of New York University.

While NYU Tisch always stands out in my mind as the training grounds for some of my favorite musicians and filmmakers, it is clearly also home to innovators for the humanitarian world. Former NYU Master’s student Jorge Just used his thesis in Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program as an opportunity to expand upon the new RapidFTR app, designed collectively in NYU’s “Design for UNICEF” class and developed by Mr. Just over three years.

The RapidFTR (Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification) app is a “versatile open-source mobile phone application and data storage system” that can be used by humanitarian workers to “collect, sort and share information about unaccompanied and separated children in emergency situations so they can be registered for care services and reunited with their families.” By taking pictures, collecting sufficient data on the child and then being able to quickly share this information, the app allows for expedited reunification between children and families following displacement. It has been able to reduce the time necessary to register information about separated children from more than six weeks to a matter of hours.

The technology is being further developed and implemented by the Child Protection in Emergencies team at UNICEF with funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (go ahead, drool over their incredible projects for a bit). You can read more about how RapidFTR is being used by the Ugandan Red Cross to reunite Congolese refugee children with their families here, or keep an eye on further progress on RapidFTR’s blog. Just another amazing way that mobile technology is being used to shape the future of the field and the futures of children all over the world.

So the question now is: what app are YOU going to design, and how many lives will it change for the better? If you’re tech savvy, I say it’s time to rise to the challenge.

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