With 192 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies (NSs), the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent (IFRC) presents an enormous wealth of data and digital capabilities in a plurality of contexts. While some National Societies are adopting the rapid advancements of modern technology in their humanitarian service delivery, most NSs are at the very beginning of their Digital Transformation journey. The digital divide remains a persistent and significant challenge.

The IFRC adopted a Digital Transformation strategy in 2021 to leverage the advancements of modern technology as a collective, which is the cumulation of differing Digital Transformation needs at national levels. These respective Digital Transformation needs are rooted in the Digital Maturity of National Societies. 510, in a pro-bono collaboration with ORTEC, developed a framework to identify what Digital Maturity looks like across multiple levels. This framework has been adopted in the IFRC’s Digital Transformation strategy to offer a vocabulary of Digital Transformation in multiple contexts and provide a basis to track the process.

510 supports Digital Transformation
510 is the Data & Digital initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross. As such, it supports the IFRC with data and digital services on many fronts and is one of the main drivers of Digital Transformation in the network. Since signing the Digital Pledge in 2019, 510 co-organized network-wide consultations on We have also co-led consultations with over 75 National Societies, external partners, and the Secretariat to shape the IFRC Digital Transformation Strategy, which was adopted by the IFRC’s governing board in 2021. Under the supervision of Under-Secretary-General Nena Stoiljkovic (Global Relations, Humanitarian Diplomacy, and Digitalization at IFRC) and together with colleagues from the Solferino Academy, the Spanish Red Cross, and the American Red Cross, 510 holds a chair at key fora for Digital Transformation at the IFRC, such as its central digital accelerator team.

The IFRC Digital Transformation strategy
The IFRC Digital Transformation strategy recognizes the rapid advancements of digital technologies and their potential to improve our humanitarian service delivery:

Utilizing data analytics and digital technology – deployed by confident professionals, in service of people in need, and handling the data responsibly – can improve the relevance, speed, quality, reach, accessibility, resilience, and sustainability of services by our National Societies

As such, the strategy is not for a Digital Transformation on its own, but for humanitarian services fit for a digital world. The strategy’s transformative action is to embrace and integrate the necessary culture, structure, and technology to support a wholescale, equitable Digital Transformation of National Societies across the network. This includes for example building data literacy and forming purposeful partnerships with private sector partners.

Developing a Digital Maturity framework for the IFRC
To structure the IFRC’s collective Digital Transformation journey, three main steps of Digital Transformation were identified. The first step sets up the basics: National Societies are transitioning to digital tools for data collection and are working to strengthen their network connectivity. National Societies in the second step are advancing their use of digital technology to anticipate risks at multiple levels. Finally, National Societies in the third step are data-driven and develop their own digital services.

510 worked closely with ORTEC to lay the foundations of a framework that identifies what needs to be in place for National Societies to be in either three of these Digital Maturity steps. The framework guides National Societies in mapping where they currently are, where they want to go, and how to get there as Robert Monné (Former Practice Lead at ORTEC, currently Managing Director Analytics for a Better World) explains: “Based on ORTEC’s approach to assessing the Data and Digital Maturity of (commercial) companies, 510 and ORTEC jointly developed an approach and maturity framework that’s fit for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It integrates specific domain knowledge on (digital) humanitarian organizations from 510, and ORTEC’s vision and technology expertise on data-driven organizations. We’ve piloted the approach with the Netherlands Red Cross and helped them to create a data and digital roadmap for the short and long term. Based on this experience we developed a standardized and self-service approach to be used by all National Societies. We’re very proud it’s already been piloted at National Societies across the globe, and are looking forward to seeing more impact”

The Digital Maturity framework recognizes that Digital Transformation is as much about people and culture as it is about processes and technology. It, therefore, identifies specific themes and subtopics for the people, process, and technology domains. The graphic below shows the division of domains and themes.

The Netherlands Red Cross’ Digital Transformation journey
The Digital Maturity framework is not a standalone assessment tool. It was developed as part of an in-depth Digital Transformation assessment to help National Societies formulate their own roadmap for Digital Transformation. This can kickstart internal and external discussions on how that goal can be achieved and will pave the way for a digital shift that fits the respective situation of each national society.

The Digital Transformation assessment was first piloted with the Netherlands Red Cross and in collaboration with ORTEC. First, several strategic sessions were held at a senior management level, to discuss why digital strategy needs to be included within the overall operational strategy itself. Maarten van der Veen (Strategic  lead at 510) elaborates “We looked at threats and opportunities but basically we tried to answer the questions
Once the need for Digital Transformation was clarified, the team established goals for the future. As Maarten explains: “We gave a rough outline of the maturity model when we asked the organization ‘where do you think you are now? Where do you want to be in 3-5 years?’ So basically: at what speed does the organization want to transform itself? After that, we had 30 interviews with different stakeholders and experts in key positions in the organization. With the maturity model, we tried to assess what the organization is and isn’t capable of.”

The assessment concluded that the Netherlands Red Cross is currently on step 2, on sub-level 2, and aspires to be on sub-level 3 within two years. “By mapping the current and future state, we identified gaps and priorities. We established a roadmap to show how we want to implement a Digital Transformation program in our organization.” Among other things, the roadmap identified two flagship projects: ing, and Direct Digital Aid (a package of three mutually enforcing digital services supporting undocumented migrants). It also identified data & digital literacy building as a crucial next step.

Simplified version of the Digital Maturity framework

Starting Digital Transformation
Upon completing the Digital Transformation assessment in the Netherlands, 510 together with IFRC trained a number of fellow National Societies to conduct the assessment and develop their own roadmaps for Digital Transformation. Liselot Kattemölle, Digital Service Coordinator for the IFRC, has been guiding National Societies to adopt the assessment to their context. She explains: “The Digital Maturity framework was integrated into the IFRC’s Digital Transformation strategy to establish a collective vocabulary for Digital Transformation across the network. Once we started piloting the framework with fellow National Societies, we found that they could not yet recognize their own organization in its three main steps and five sub-levels. For example, level 1 assumes that National Societies are increasingly making use of digital technology for their humanitarian services and that the basics are being put in place. While this certainly is an aim for most National Societies, the reality is that a majority of National Societies are faced with very limited resources. Putting the very basics in place is challenging, for example, due to poor infrastructure and unstable electricity supply. The Digital Maturity framework was adopted to better capture these challenges. It also helped IFRC prioritize its key interventions for Digital Transformation: to help lift at least 80 National Societies lift one level of Digital Maturity by the end of 2025”.

What does your National Societies’ Digital Transformation journey look like?
Are you interested to map your National Societies’ Digital Maturity? Find out more on the IFRC’s Digital Transformation Website here or contact Liselot Kattemölle via liselot.kattemolle@ifrc.org