How AI is Bettering Response To Internal Displacement

Conflict, violence, and disasters continue to uproot millions of people from their homes every year. Never in IDMC’s history have we recorded more people internally displaced than we do today.

Alexandra Bilak
Director, IDMC

The Problem

More than 50 million people around the world are internally displaced. Forced by natural disasters and violence to flee their homes and often living in refugee-like conditions within their own country’s borders, the UNHCR has called internally displaced people “among the most vulnerable in the world.”

Each year, thousands of internal displacement crises are tracked and analyzed by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)—the world’s most definitive source of data on internal displacement. Prior to partnering with Data Friendly Space (DFS), IDMC relied on a small IT team to collect and securely store reliable, timely, and longitudinal data on millions of displaced people from over 188 countries. This limited capacity held back the international community’s ability to respond to, report on, and ultimately, reduce the risk and impact of internal displacements across the globe.

The Solution

In the digital age, data is among the greatest tools to disaster management—when managed, secured, and utilized effectively. Overwhelmed by data inputs and the complexity of their data infrastructure, IDMC turned to DFS, a trusted partner to leading international humanitarian organizations across the globe.

Since 2019, DFS has introduced multiple data management tools backed by AI to better process, store, and analyze internal displacement trends and enable faster, more robust humanitarian responses in the field. Highlights include:

DFS SolutionResult 
Efficient Media MonitoringDFS helped to replace IDMC’s manual processing with IDETECT, a tool that analyzes thousands of global news sources daily through natural language processing. 
With IDETECT, IDMC now automates data collection on natural disaster and armed conflict displacements and can visually present the data to partners, funders, and decision makers worldwide. 
Smart Reporting DFS carried out a complete re-development of the main IDMC web application used to collect, analyze, and report on internal displacement data around the world.

HELIX, a global information management system, is now pre-populated from the IDETECT natural language processing system, resulting in:

1. Reduced manual input and increased capacity for team members
2. More accurate and comprehensive data entry 

DFS’s data outputs are used to create reports like IDMC’s 2020 Global Report on Internal Displacement that are a primary resource to the United Nations and humanitarian leaders around the world. 
21st Century SecurityDFS redesigned and deployed an entirely new infrastructure to securely store IDMC’s data from 188 countries and thousands of annual displacement events. DFS continues to provide around the clock security monitoring for IDMC’s online resources.
Seamless IntegrationDFS managed the migration of data from thousands of past internal displacement events to a centralized reporting system. Upgrades are designed to increase the organization’s interoperability and dramatically reduce human error and the need for manual input. 

In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19), internally displaced people are especially at risk. Whether they were forced to flee their homes because of conflict, violence or disasters, millions of IDPs worldwide live in densely populated areas, are unable to self-isolate, and lack access to water, sanitation and basic healthcare.


DFS’s data management tools, including Smart Reporting (Helix) and Efficient Media Monitoring (IDETECT), were utilized to produce multiple reports on the state of internal displacement during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Internal Displacement 2020: Mid-year update. The report analyzed 14.6 million new internal displacements across 127 countries in the first 6 months of 2020, giving the humanitarian community access to geolocalized data on the key priorities of people in need for a more accurate response on the ground.

DFS also built the data processing tools to enable detailed tracking and analysis of key variables impacting internally displaced people throughout COVID-19, including the virus’ impact to health, livelihoods, housing, education, and security. Learn more about IDMC’s response to COVID-19.