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Angie Lee

Consultant (Former title)

Angie is a Digital Communications Specialist and serves as the communications focal point for the Child Protection and Social and Economic Policy units. Having worked as a Strategic Planner in creative advertising agencies and within the Communications divisions in UNICEF Innocenti and the World Food Programme, Angie has both private sector and UN-experience. She has a background in Business & Law, and a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from University of Stirling and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Blogs

Hygiene and cleaning kits
Blog

How a displacement crisis helped Jordan support its population during COVID-19

At the beginning of 2020, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan entered the tenth year of a humanitarian crisis, providing refuge to over 650,000 Syrian refugees. But in the spring, another crisis hit which threatened not only the fragile livelihoods of these refugees, but the wellbeing of every person in Jordan—COVID-19. Jordan has implemented a strict nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 crisis. While the restrictive containment measures have controlled the pandemic, they put those who depend on daily jobs at risk of falling into deep poverty. To prevent this, the Government of Jordan decided to provide emergency cash to 200,000 Jordanian daily wage workers who have lost their income as part of its COVID-19 response. Read how the Hajati cash transfer programme in Jordan was quickly expanded to support Syrian refugees during COVID-19This response was not business as usual. Although the Government of Jordan and partners (like UNICEF) have provided cash to vulnerable people for years, these have not included “near poverty” informal workers. Furthermore, isolation policies and a strict curfew meant regular procedures for enrolling workers and paying cash transfers could not be used. With the experience and lessons learned from the Syria crisis, UNICEF worked with the Government of Jordan to develop alternative strategies to reach those most vulnerable. UNICEF as a trusted partner on social protectionUNICEF is a well-established social protection partner in Jordan. In 2019, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Social Development in designing its National Social Protection Strategy.  With other agencies, including the World Bank and the World Food Programme, UNICEF implemented a technical working group to support the strengthening and expansion of the National Aid Fund (NAF). Prior research, such as the National Geographic Vulnerability Analysis and forthcoming research by UNICEF Innocenti on the role of cash transfers in the lives of vulnerable families, helped UNICEF Jordan establish itself as a thought leader on social protection in the country. Information systems had been developed by UNICEF to provide the NAF with the needed data for planning, design, implementation and monitoring of programmes. Routine immunization and newborn screening has resumed for children in Jordan following a temporary pause as part of COVID-19 prevention measures.Reaching out remotelyThrough its Hajati cash transfer programme for vulnerable households, including Syrian refugees, UNICEF Jordan has built up extensive experience with RapidPro. Developed by UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, RapidPro can be used for two-way SMS and digital communication (e.g. WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger) to raise awareness, collect data, and monitor programme implementation. It is effective also in contexts with good cell-phone coverage, but limited use of smart phones. Forthcoming research by UNICEF Innocenti finds that communication through RapidPro is highly trusted in Jordan and recipients appreciate the opportunity to communicate directly with UNICEF. RapidPro proved to be essential to Jordan’s COVID-19 response. Using RapidPro , 200,000 new recipients of the emergency cash were reached quickly, remotely, and safely at no cost to recipients. RapidPro text messages confirmed the identification of the targeted recipients and determined whether they had an active mobile wallet. If needed, UNICEF provided instructions on how to open new mobile wallet without physically visiting a service provider. Through a constant exchange of data with the Central Bank of Jordan and mobile money companies, UNICEF monitored the rate at which mobile wallets were opened. RapidPro also enabled UNICEF and NAF to troubleshoot arising issues. Flowchart illustrating the ID verification process conducted through SMS messages for the Hajati cash transfer programme.The remote approach workedThe results exceeded expectations. Out of the first batch of 100,000 daily workers, only 18,000 had an active mobile wallet. Five days after being contacted through RapidPro, this figure had grown to over 80,000. Although the second batch are still being contacted, fourteen days after starting the process, 188,000 workers had active mobile wallets and had already received the much-needed cash. NAF and UNICEF continue their efforts to reach the remaining 12,000 daily workers by coordinating with mobile money service providers and calling households. Although certain challenges were anticipated (such as phone coverage, literacy, and cost), these proved to be comparatively minor hurdles in this context. Humanitarian and development work do not operate in silos Jordan’s COVID-19 emergency cash response exemplifies how humanitarian and development work can reinforce and support each other. For the most efficient and timely emergency response, it is key to have flexible systems in place, such as RapidPro. Systems developed to respond to humanitarian crises and lessons learned from humanitarian responses can help build shock-responsive national social protection systems.   Mays Albaddawi and Alexis Boncenne are Programme Officers in UNICEF Jordan’s Social Protection section. Jacobus de Hoop is manager of humanitarian policy research at UNICEF Innocenti. Angie Lee is a Communications Specialist with UNICEF Innocenti. Luisa Natali is a Social Policy Specialist at the UNICEF Innocenti. Matthew McNaughton is Global Technology For Development Specialist in UNICEF's Information Communication and Technology Division. Manuel Rodriguez Pumarol is Chief of UNICEF Jordan’s Social Protection section. Discover our work on Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings. 
Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19
Blog

Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19

COVID—19 is wreaking health and economic turmoil worldwide. These impacts are all the more pronounced in low-income or crisis-affected countries, where the economic crisis caused by the pandemic may hit harder than the virus itself. This is the case for Jordan which, in addition to 15.7% of its population living below the poverty line, hosts 650,000 registered refugees who fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Since 2017, UNICEF Jordan has been supporting vulnerable households with  monthly direct cash payments (known as ‘Hajati’). This cash is ‘no strings attached’ but recipients are encouraged to use it to support children’s schooling. Forthcoming UNICEF Innocenti research reveals how Hajati positively impacts children’s lives. But how can social protection be expanded rapidly to support families made even more vulnerable by a global pandemic? The case of Hajati provides some valuable reflections. To counter the spread of the virus, the government of Jordan declared a state of emergency, implementing a stringent lockdown and deploying the army to enforce a strict curfew. While these containment measures slow the spread of COVID—19, many already vulnerable people have suddenly found themselves without an income. UNICEF Jordan quickly started working with the government and other partners to offset the impact of the lockdown for children. New vulnerable households were added to the Hajati cash transfer programme. This expansion provides urgent support to households that cannot count on savings to cope with the shock. Saleh, the eldest sibling of eight children, is 13 years old and in 8th grade at a UNICEF-supported double-shifted school in Wadi al-Sier. He is considering going back to work as, even with the Hajati support, the family continues to struggle with high living costs and rent.Following the closure of all schools on 15th March, UNICEF Jordan is helping to provide distance learning to children, fulfilling Hajati’s primary aim of supporting children’s education. Using TV and online platforms, as well as providing information on age-appropriate lessons through Hajati communication networks, UNICEF Jordan continues to support the most vulnerable children during this particularly challenging period.   Four factors to get cash to those who need it, fast Time was of the essence as the lockdown immediately impacted people’s livelihoods and included an imminent bank closure. In just two weeks, UNICEF Jordan scaled up Hajati to include 18,000 additional vulnerable children. Four factors made this possible: 1. Comprehensive data on potential recipientsUNICEF Jordan maintains a database with information on 38,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households. This was used to rapidly identify households not receiving Hajati but who were in urgent need of financial support. 2. Efficient and safe payment systemsUNICEF Jordan leveraged existing systems to transfer funds. Under a partnership with 26 humanitarian organizations (Common Cash Facility), households registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) can quickly and safely access Hajati cash using an iris scan. Furthermore, by coordinating with other cash providers, payment dates are staggered to avoid overcrowding and to reduce the potential transmission of the virus at ATMs. 3. Direct communication with recipients UNICEF Jordan has three channels to communicate with beneficiaries: SMS for one-way communication; RapidPro for two-way SMS communication at no cost to beneficiaries; and a helpline for direct communication. These allow UNICEF to quickly update people about Hajati and inform them of basic safety measures to avoid contracting the virus while collecting the cash. 4. Readily available fundsBolstered by research (forthcoming) on the positive impacts of Hajati for children, UNICEF Jordan had already secured funding for the programme through to December 2020. This financial buffer allowed UNICEF to scale-up its cash response rapidly, without immediate fundraising. Despite this recent expansion, even more children could benefit from Hajati. If sufficient funds are raised, 50,000 more children could quickly be included, in addition to the 18,000 now benefiting from the recent scale-up. To achieve this, UNICEF Jordan has issued a funding appeal.   Jacobus de Hoop is manager of humanitarian policy research at UNICEF Innocenti. Luisa Natali is a Social Policy Specialist at the UNICEF Innocenti. Alexis Boncenne is Programme Officer in UNICEF Jordan’s Social Protection section. Angie Lee is a Communications Specialist with UNICEF Innocenti. Discover more about UNICEF Innocenti’s research on Social Protection and Cash Transfers, as well as work on Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings. Readers interested in more detailed discussion of shock-responsive social protection can read a literature review by Oxford Policy Management (2017). Those interested in UNICEF’s approach to shock-responsive social protection and humanitarian cash transfers can find out more here and here.
Research on humanitarian social protection is not only possible, but desperately needed
Blog

Research on humanitarian social protection is not only possible, but desperately needed

Rigorous research in humanitarian emergencies is not only feasible but also necessary to determine what constitutes effective assistance in these settings. This column introduces a Special Issue of the Journal of Development Studies which demonstrates that research establishing causal effects is vital for the design of efficient and effective social protection in settings of fragility and displacement. 
New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?
Blog

New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?

We sat down with Gabrielle Berman, our expert on research ethics, to chat about her two new discussion papers which explore the ethics of using new technologies to generate evidence about children. The papers, written collaboratively with UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, highlight the advantages and risks of using these technologies to gather data about children. They also provide useful guidance for researchers – especially those unfamiliar with technology – on the questions they should be asking in order to protect children’s rights. What inspired you to produce these two discussion papers? During staff trainings, we kept getting requests from staff who wanted technical advice around technology and the use of technologies for data collection and evidence generation. Most didn’t know where to start or what to consider when thinking about using these technologies. This was the initial foray into an incredibly complex and important area for UNICEF around using technology for evidence generation. Why focus on social media and geospatial technology specifically? We started with social media and geospatial technology because these were the two that were the most prevalent in the organisation at the time, and there was the most demand for guidance. We should now also be considering the ethical implications of technologies like biometrics, blockchain and wearable technology. We have already started receiving requests from staff for technical advice around the ethical implications of these new technologies. From my perspective, one of the biggest misconceptions is that technology is unequivocally good, meaning these technologies could be used without appropriate reflection on the implications and potential impacts.The papers were written in collaboration with the Office of Innovation. What were the benefits of the process? Without this collaboration, the papers wouldn’t have the same status. The dialogue and relationships that were established through the collaboration of the two offices are just as important as the papers themselves. Working together also meant that we could establish an advisory group which spanned everything from ICT for Development, to communications, to data and analytics.  In this way, people with all sorts of expertise across the organization could input into the papers. What are some of the most common misconceptions about the use of these technologies for evidence generation? It depends on what side of the fence you’re on. From my perspective, one of the biggest misconceptions is that technology is unequivocally good, meaning these technologies could be used without appropriate reflection on the implications and potential impacts. However, for those on the technology side, one of the biggest issues is that technology won’t be used for fear of the complexity of the ethical implications. The benefit of collaborating with the Innovation office was that we had two different perspectives, but both are equally valid. Through dialogue, we acknowledged the benefits as much as the risks and agreed that what was required was reflective practice. It’s not an absolute yes or a no, but rather an “if” and “how can we do this?” and what strategies do we need to consider? The biggest challenge is understanding the implications of the technology when you’re not a native technocrat. It’s incredibly difficult for staff in the field to understand the type of questions they should be asking.What is the biggest challenge with regards ensuring ethical compliance when using these technologies? The biggest challenge is understanding the implications of the technology when you’re not a native technocrat. It’s incredibly difficult for staff in the field to understand the type of questions they should be asking. They also have to receive responses in simple English in order for them to start thinking through the ethical issues and the potential mitigation strategies. Part of the challenge is to change thinking and empower those who aren’t tech natives to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and interrogate the potential implications of the technology. We must avoid abdication of responsibility to tech experts and remind staff that they are in fact the experts on potential implications for children. To be a child advocate it’s incredibly important to ask the right questions, to understand and to take responsibility for the technology and its implications.Adolescent girls look at social media posts while attending a "Lifeskills" event in Union Development & Culture Community Centre in Djibouti.How can we empower people to feel like they can ask the right questions? Firstly, we need to provide them with guidance. But importantly, we need to get stakeholders around the same table - including the social media companies, the data scientists, and the communities we work with. We should bring these people with different perspectives together, acknowledging everyone’s expertise, and engaging in dialogue on what the potential ethical issues are and how they can be mitigated. This joint risk assessment is a key way to start a constructive dialogue on the issues and potential mitigation strategies. How can we mitigate the threat of data and algorithms informing policy, without appropriate engagement and dialogue? Firstly, it’s important to appreciate the implications of the data sets on which algorithms are based and to be aware that the algorithms may have built-in biases. For example, certain populations are more likely to be monitored and so data on arrests are more likely to be higher for this group. Following from this, we need to understand that certain populations may be excluded from the data sets. Algorithms are based on training data, so unless all communities are included in the data, the outcomes and predictions are not going to be representative of these communities. For example, when data is gathered via smartphones, those who don’t have a smartphone are excluded. We must not forget that there are very real risks in making decisions based on quantitative trends alone.Thirdly, we must recognize that modelling looks at trends only and does not consider individuals. Algorithms may see these trends as a whole but, like any type of quantitative data, it will miss the qualitative nuances underpinning these findings. While it may be very easy to adopt big data sets and use them to determine policies, we must not forget that there are very real risks in making decisions based on quantitative trends alone. The Convention on the Rights of the Child very clearly says that a child has the right to have a voice on matters that affect them. If we start basing policy exclusively on quantitative data, we are not giving voice to the nuances that may explain the data or the nuances of the individual who may differ from the broader findings. It’s very important that we acknowledge the value of big data, but we must also acknowledge that individuals still need to have a voice. Listening to children’s voices should never be replaced by a purely quantitative approach, so while data is a very valuable tool, it is only one tool. Are there any other ethical risks that stem from using this type of data? With social media data in particular, if you run algorithms against the data you may start using it for purposes other than those originally intended when people submitted this data. The moment you start taking data out of context, it may lose its contextual integrity in which case we have to ask whether it is still relevant. This idea of contextual integrity needs to be interrogated.Adolescent girls use cellphones and tablets in a solar kiosk providing internet connectivity in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, Jordan.Does ensuring ethical compliance also provide an opportunity to educate people on technology and online privacy? I don’t see it as an opportunity but rather an obligation stemming from our use of these technologies. If you’re using third party data in a public way, it must also be announced publicly, in the spirit of full disclosure. We must recognise the importance of transparency in the work we do, particularly when it may be difficult if not impossible to secure informed consent. With social media projects, where you’re actively using the platform to engage young people, it’s incredibly important that you actually provide information around privacy. You cannot guarantee that children have child-friendly explanations, and so it’s our responsibility to educate and to be clear about the risks involved. Are there any additional potential risks specifically associated with geospatial technology? Geospatial technology has been invaluable in both development and humanitarian contexts, but we need to think about where we source the data, how useful it is, whether it’s a two-way dialogue, and if can we respond to any requests for help in humanitarian contexts. We particularly need to be concerned with the potential risks involved and the security of this data in humanitarian contexts. In these situations, we’re often dealing with vulnerable populations. Because of this, we must be very careful to ensure that this data is limited to those who absolutely need to access the data, particularly any raw and individual data, with specific consideration for the safety of the populations that may be captured by the technology. For this reason, we really need to think about the interoperability of geospatial data systems: which partners are we working with? who in these organisations has access to the data? why do they have access? do we have sufficient security measures? These types of reflections are necessary to fulfill our obligations to protect the communities that we work with.   You can download both papers on ethical considerations when using geospatial technology and social media on unicef-irc.org now.

Podcasts

New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?
Podcast

Sarah Crowe on what life is like for migrant children in Niger

New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?
Podcast

A Conversation with our Education Team

Videos

New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?
Video

5 Questions: Children and COVID-19 Research Library

New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?
Video

5 Questions: Children and COVID-19 Research Library