This paper discusses the manner in which a company or organization manages infrastructure during a humanitarian crisis. In this particular discussion, the Red Cross is chosen as the organization of focus/case study. Infrastructure generally is the fundamental facilities and systems that are required for the proper operation of a company/ organization. It comprises both private and public improvements divided into two general types of infrastructure which is hard and soft infrastructure. Hard infrastructure includes buildings, transportation, power supply, communication, water supply and other physical attributes pertaining to the company. The other type is the soft infrastructure which includes technology, economical health, social and cultural standards of an organization (Ghosal 2013).
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They also include law enforcement agencies, recreational facilities, educational programs, and emergency services. A humanitarian crisis, on the other hand, is a singular or a series of events that threaten human beings in terms of health, safety and their well-being which may be internal or external. They are categorized into two, namely man-made and natural. Natural crisis entails earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, floods, droughts, epidemics, and infestations. The other category is man-made which include conflicts, pollution, environmental degradation and industrial accidents (lonergan 2011).
The Red Cross is the largest humanitarian network globally, which is present in over 200 countries. It also focuses on international disaster response, resilience and recovery, which help in creating, storing and using data to increase the efficiency and impact of their humanitarian mission. Humanitarian relief environments involve the Red Cross with its mission, interest, capability and logistic proficiency, though it is still developing (Balcik et al 2010). The use of technology plays a big role in gathering information on facts, figures and data in order to interpret it as actionable information. A good example is getting the number of damages like houses, and calculating the percentage of damages using the choropleth map which is an information product.
The Red Cross uses the Dell Technologies as their IT infrastructure because it helps in creating better, different products and services as a foundation of better infrastructure platforms. It also helps in gathering, analyzing and using data to optimize usage and monetization in the future. Dell Technologies have better storages and protection of data with transformative and hyper-converged offerings that accelerate IT. For example, the Red Cross provides about 40% of the blood from more than 2. 8 million volunteer donors in the US yearly. Having the right technologies like the Dell, the Red Cross is able to mobilize volunteers and employees to bring blood in real time and instantly, thus securing the patients in needs (Dell Technologies 2018).
Another example, last year, The Red Cross was able to move 6. 5 million blood products in areas that were in real need and were also able to move critical applications to their new data center. This helped in delivering mobility to the field from the Red Cross data center, which operates 50% faster with a data reduction ratio of 3:1. Technology has also provided easy and quick cash transfers, especially in remote areas by identifying the target households and registered them in the system. This was done through the use of technology by capturing their names, identification numbers, phone numbers, ward, and village. Dell Technologies (2017) notes that the Red Cross staff and volunteers were then trained on the same and supported entering the information captured in excel sheets.
Local vendors, on the other hand, benefited from this since they were also trained on the new technology to carry out the cash transfers. In this case, each vendor was given a unique username and code to ensure that he/she was the only person with access to make a transaction. This technology made it easy for the Red Cross to reach remote areas with relief support at reduced costs. Another IT infrastructure the Red Cross has chosen is partnering with the East Banc Technologies to transform their on-prem host environment to a measurable cloud storage infrastructure for the different uses and services. The transformation entailed replacing the old-fashioned monolithic architecture with a modern REST microservices architecture which later improved the scalability, failover, maintainability, and extensibility (East Banc Technologies 2018). It also entailed redeveloping the Red Cross. org/ReddCrossBlood. org backend Java codes, introducing new software for the IT department. This has made the Red Cross be able to develop new features and services using the latest technology stack by moving, converting and transferring their data to new database servers.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) movement is a worldwide humanitarian network, helping people facing disaster, health, conflict, and social problems. It was established in 1863; it operates globally, it has won the Nobel Peace Prize thrice and worked under the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This movement is mainly funded by the governments, voluntary donors, National Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies. ICRC (2017) confirms that the ICRC has different approaches to crisis management, which include preparedness to provide timely and effective aid in times of disasters. This is done by monitoring and using forecasts for early warning, directing and finalizing pre-disaster meeting and agreements and organizing and taking part in mockup exercises with significant partners. Another approach is requesting assistance prior to an imminent disaster to provide and facilitate international aid. The relevant information entails the nature of the disaster, estimated impact, future development, actions to be taken and a preliminary assessment of the needs and priorities for aid. Lastly, the coordinated and principled response is another approach which will help in defining the strategic objectives of the Red Cross (ICRC 2017).
Vendor management is a self-control measure enabling organizations to regulate costs, determine service quality and ease risks to gain increased value from their dealers throughout the deal life phase. Red Cross has dealt with vendor management by selecting the best vendors who will be able to optimize operational results. They have also established their desired result on vendor management which is meeting their goals on a consistent basis. A good example is in the case of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where normal life was largely impacted and people were left without food, water, and homes. The Red Cross had to ensure that the vendors had supplied what was required on time to help alleviate their suffering during the disaster. These supplies were food, mosquito nets, medical equipment, and medicines and sleeping bags (Sharp 2018).
Redundancy, on the other hand, is a form of release from a person’s job which happens when managers need to cut their staff. However, the person might be entitled to certain rights like redundancy pay and a notice period. This happens in most cases when an organization introduces new technology like the use of machines when it slows down due to production and when it closes down. The Red Cross often carries out redundancies when it closes down its offices in certain areas where they have resettled people and are able to move on with their lives normally and when there is insecurity in the area. A good example is in the case of the closure of Irvine Options for Independence Care facility which affected 56 workers (Dunn 2016). Lastly, there is risk management, which is the prediction and estimation of monetary risks, strategic risks, legal risks, and Information Technology risks together with the identification of measures to avoid or reduce their effects. The Red Cross has ensured that risks shall be managed by the business unit and functional unit executives that are in-charge and play a supportive role to ensure that they achieve their goals. The risk management cost must balance the expected profits and must not excessively increase the expenditures (The American Red Cross 2016).
Humanitarian logistics operations is the crucial success factor in the charitable supply chain activities connected with the welfare of human beings during and after a disaster (Christopher 2011). Humanitarian logistics mostly involve operations activated as responses to catastrophes like disaster relief and aid work which works in three phases. According to Qing & Daud (2014), these phases are preparing for disaster, instant response to a disaster and restoration. Infrastructure management by the Red Cross is complex because of some barriers they encountered like limitations in agent coverage and cash flow for those using the e-voucher payments in the case of cash transfers. There was also the gap in mobile network coverage to upload the transfers because some of the service providers had not erected boosters to enhance network coverage. This led to low networks. Thus the cash transfer could not be carried out due to delays. They also experienced errors in biometric technology, especially to those who registered using their fingerprints.
There was a failure of urban-set technology that would work well in the rural/remote areas. Another complexity experienced by the Red Cross is financial barriers where they lacked resources to invest in new infrastructure. They lack enough funding from the stakeholders like the government, donor volunteers and the public to enable them to invest in new infrastructure (ICRC 2017). The Red Cross also faced low literacy levels, especially in education, leading to taking a lot of time and effort to educate the people on how to use the new infrastructure and making them adapt to the new systems. This is because there are very few programs that enhance the skills needed in humanitarian logistics (Kovacs & Spens 2011). Lastly, there is an institutional barrier where there is resistance to new infrastructure. The people opted and preferred their conventional methods as in the case of cash transfers they preferred carrying cash in envelopes and taking it to the desired place. This posed the risk of money getting lost on the way leading to losses.
Humanitarian organizations in most cases emphasize less on cost planning as their primary motive is to provide real time assistance. Organizations like the Red Cross can apply the cooperative approach for it to benefit from finances as a way of managing its infrastructure (Schulz & Blecken 2010). In order for the Red Cross to manage the complexity of infrastructure, there are a number of ways they can apply. They include buying technology, software and manage them in their IT departments. This will ensure that in case a problem arises, they would be able to manage it immediately, unlike when they have to contact the service provider to rectify their problem which may take longer.
The Red Cross should also carry out extensive research before applying the infrastructure in certain remote areas. For example, in the case of cash transfers they should research on the availability of networks, they should also negotiate on the contracts when the operating team is available for response. The staff and the volunteers should be trained and take simulation and pilot programs to develop operation skills and be able to troubleshoot problems. There is also need for coordination in disaster management because it enhances quick aid in case of a crisis with diverse functions like water, shelter, sanitation, and logistics (Jahre & Jensen 2010). The Red Cross should also create awareness to the areas where there is some resistance of accepting the new infrastructure. This can be done by carrying out education programs where the people will be taught about the benefits of the infrastructure and the progress it will bring. The government and the volunteer donors, on the other hand, should give the Red Cross enough financial support to help them carry out their mandate of improving the infrastructure and accomplish their mission of service to humanity. They should put financial objectives into the Red Cross programs and align operational incentives of aid agencies with the integration of the financial sector actors into emergency programming (Relief web 2017).
Good and reliable infrastructure is essential in every situation, especially during a humanitarian crisis, because it enhances real-time assistance during disasters/crisis. The Red Cross aims to provide humanitarian aid to people who have experienced such situations which can be either man-made or natural. The Infrastructure assists in responding quickly with aids and long-lasting solutions. On the other hand, having the required infrastructure is only half the work whereas maintaining the same to achieve optimum performance is the rest of the work. Consistency is the key with infrastructure management, be it with maintenance or upgrade. Reliable information and required resources are most vital in relief operations and therefore, adequate infrastructure plays a vital role in enhancing the quality of services offered by red-cross and also promises smooth transition of operations at crisis struck locations.
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