Risk And Supply Chain Management Information Technology Essay

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1 Introduction.

"Information Technology has considerably changed the way organizations use their supply chain operations to realize competitive differentiation. Firms that have succeeded have used IT to sustain their business strategy and prority".Nicles et. Al, 1989.

The impact of ICT in relief chain process is majorly to improve the efficiency and to reduce or avoid risks that would have been encountered had automation not been used in the relief chain process. This is due to the IT capability to influence real time decisions and simulated outcomes.(Nicles et al,1989)

1.1 Relief Chain Processes

In humanitarian relief operations, logistics are necessary to manage and execute the efforts of organizations responding to a crisis. This is not a simple matter. Most of the time, large number of people, food, shelter, clothing, heavy machinery, and medical supplies must be transported in and around the disaster area using many diverse modes of transportation. In some cases, because lives are at stake, the operation must be done quickly, while holding down costs. Haghani and Oh (1995) describes the relief chain as a "multi-commodity, multi-modal network flow problem with time windows". This is one of the, most complex and, ,risky network flow problems in operations research. The management of, this difficult, supply chain and, the inherent, risks, directly, affects program quality.

Anisya Thomas, (2004) and Mitsuko Mizushima, (2005). divided the humanitarian supply chain into the following process.

The process is pictured in the figure below.

Figure1-Relief Chain

Relief Chain (Thomas, 2004) modified by Mizushima ,2005

1.2Risk and Supply Chain Management

Interest in risk and supply chain management is gradually becoming common with increasing number of people writing on the subject. However, interest in risk and purchasing can be traced, back to Robinson et al(1967) work, on the Buy Grid model . Moore, (1983) states that risk encompasses both the possibility of loss and the hope of gain. Nevertheless, in looking at how organizations perceive risk, it is usually the negative connotations of, risk - loss rather than gain - which ,seem to preoccupy, managers (Hood and Young, 2005).

Many others authors who have also emphasized the negative side of risk include:

Lowrance (1980) who described risk as a measure of the probability and severity of adverse effects. Also, Rowe (1980) defined risk as the potential for unwanted negative consequences to arise from an event or activity.

Simon et.al (1997) perceived risk in terms of the likelihood of an uncertain ,event or set of circumstances, occurring which would have, an adverse effect on the achievement of, a project's ,objectives.

Furthermore, Moore (1983)) stressed that the perception of risk, is often context dependent, when terms like ,high risk or low ,risk are used, the meaning commonly ,depends on the ,starting asset, base and the consequences, that the occurrence of, the risk would have, for the asset base, of the individual or organisation ,concerned.

1.3 Approaches to managing risk

The risk management process is almost similar with many organisation. For instance, Dickson (1989) defined risk management as "The identification, analysis and control of those risks which can threaten the assets or earning capacity of an enterprise". Likewise, Fone and Young (2000) sees risk management as a general management function which is involved in assessing and addressing risks in the context of the overall objectives of the business.

Risk management ideally should be a continuous and developing process which should run throughout the organisation's strategy and its implementation.Tchankova,(2002) states that Risk management should generally address all the risks involved in the organisation's past, present and in particular future activities. It must be incorporated into the culture of the ,organisation with an effective policy ,and a programme.It must translate the strategy into tactical and operational objectives, assigning responsibility throughout the organisation with assigned responsibility for the management of risk .Tchankova (2002, p. 290), maintains that "risk management has become a main part of the organisation's activities and its main aim is to help all other management activities to achieve the organisation's aims directly and efficiently". Hood and Young (2005) support this view, pointing to the UK public sector where great emphasis has been placed on integrating risk management into the day-to-day management of national and local government bodies.

According to Cox and Townsend (1998), the actual process of risk management normally begins by assessing two factors: firstly, the likelihood of specific events occurring; and secondly, the consequences should the events actually occur.

Smallman (1996) takes the view that effective risk management does not need to be a highly formalised and structured process, but instead it should be based on good commonsense but the majority of other observers tend to favour a more formal, structured approach to managing risk (Frosdick, 1997). Steele and Court, (1996) argues that though a number of different risk management systems have been put forward, most approaches tend to follow the generic process shown below.

This consists of three critical stages:

1.3.1 Risk identification. Its purpose being to determine all risk factors that are likely to occur on a project.

1.3.2 Risk analysis. Its purpose being to understand the likelihood and extent of the most significant risks.

1.3.3 Risk evaluation. Its purpose being to decide on the most appropriate management response for each risk/combination of risks and which party is most appropriate to manage each of the risks identified.

This is summarised in the figure below.

Figure 2.Risk Management.

Simon et al. (1997) suggest that, whilst there is a wide range of techniques available to undertake each of the three stages of the risk management process, these can be separated into three groups:

Qualitative Techniques. These seek to identify, describe, analyze and understand risks.

QuantitativeTechniques.These seek to model risk in order to quantify its effect.

Control Techniques. These seek to respond to identified risk in order to minimize risk exposure.

Zsidisin et al (2004) adopt a similar view, arguing that the main techniques fall into four categories: formal, informal, qualitative and quantitative. Frosdick (1997) takes a slightly different approach to categorizing the various tools and techniques for risk assessment. He argues that they can be categorised under the broad headings of intuitive tools (such as brainstorming), inductive tools , and deductive tools (such as accident investigation and analysis).

One of the most detailed tools for risk assessment is the Comprehensive Outsource Risk Evaluation (CORE) system, which was developed by Microsoft and Arthur Anderson (Michalski, 2000). The CORE system identifies 19 risk factors, which are categorised into four families:


Business controls;

Business values; and


Each family is weighted based on its importance to the company's long-term business strategies.

1.4 The importance of risk for supply chain management

There is considerable evidence that failure to manage supply chain risks effectively can have a significant negative impact on organisations (Mitchell, 1995). Cousins et al. (2004) identify the wider consequences of a failure to manage risks effectively. These include not just only financial losses but also reduction in product quality, damage to property and equipment, loss of reputation in the eyes of customers, suppliers and the wider public, and delivery delays. There is also evidence that economic, political and social developments over the past decade appear to be increasing the risk of supply chain disruptions as supply chains are getting longer and more complex and are involving more partners due to the increase in global sourcing (Hendricks and Singhal, 2005). Also, the threat of terrorism, such as 9/11, military action, such as the war in Iraq, disease, such as the foot and mouth outbreak in the UK, and natural disasters, such as the drought problem in Ethiopia, all have the power to disrupt, or cause uncertainty in, supply chains (Elliott, 2005; Peck and Juttner, 2002).

In addition, we now appear to be living in an era of rapid change in technologies and product markets, and increasing customer expectations in terms of better products, lower prices and quicker response times (Hallikas et al.2002). Add these all together and it can be seen that the potential risks facing supply chains are growing significantly-

Many researchers have sought to investigate or explain the relationship between risk and supply chain management (Harland et al, 2003; Macintosh, 2002; Zsidisin et al 2000)

Harland et al (2003) maintain that the increasing globalisation, complexity and dynamism of supply chains are leading to greater exposure to risk from political and economic events. They argue that disruption to supplies in one country can quickly spread through an entire global supply chain.

Supply chains worldwide are susceptible to various risks. The World Bank reports that the risk of death, destruction, and suffering has increased due to "accelerated changes in demographic and economic trends" (Kreimer & Munasinghe, 1991).Attempting to discuss some of the perceived risks that affect the Somali region in the course of WFP operations and proposing some IT systems to mitigate those risks, literature regarding risks in the humanitarian sector is sparse. This chapter attempts to adapt risk management in the private sector to the humanitarian sector. Scope will be broadened to include supply chain risk from all sectors in order to extract valuable lessons learned for the World Food Programme in Ethiopia and other humanitarian organizations. Risk sources are the environmental, organizational or supply chain related variables that cannot be predicted with certainty and that affect the supply chain-outcome variables.

Risk management process is focused on understanding the risks, and minimizing their impactt by addressing, e.g. probability and direct impact. Generally, organizations plan to protect against recurrent, low-impact risks in their supply chains but ignore high-impact, low-likelihood risks. But in recent time's disasters, both natural and man-made has made organizations to rethink their risk management approaches in context of supply chain as organizations now rely on their partners spanning several nations and continents. The sources of supply chain risks are many, as different links of a supply chain are exposed to different types of risks. Also in a quest to become more agile and lean, organizations are becoming more dependent on outside support which also adds to the overall risk vulnerability.(Norman and Jansson,2004)


There are very many risks in humanitarian supply chain .From soliciting for aids from donors through shipping to the country where they are required to distribution to the needy. Typical humanitarian risks include receiving unwanted gifts, theft, looting, accidents, and injury to staffs, corruption and diversion. Paul, 2005 reviewed seven best practices to consider employing to enhance the security of a supply chain. The general premise of his article was based on the old saying that "freight at rest is freight at risk". His article summarized several of the most common and general security risks facing supply chains and the measures to take against them. One of these risks, cargo theft, is a legitimate threat to any organization's supply chain. Anderson (2007) examines the practice of cargo theft in today's economy where it is commonly seen in the transportation of high value products such as tobacco and electronics. Anderson (2007) further discussed the motives behind cargo theft as well as the process for the various ways in which theft can take place. Additionally, he discussed Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a preventative measure but made it clear that "technology alone is not the magic bullet against cargo theft".

2 Supply Chain Risk Mitigation.

Today the key issues in business supply chain management (SCM) are the formation of the supply chain and its efficient coordination with objectives of customer satisfaction and sustaining competency. This requires complex flow of information, materials, and funds across multiple functional areas both within and among companies. To achieve this, organisations must identify, evaluate, rank, and manage its supply chain risks. The leaner and more integrated supply chains get the more likely uncertainties, dynamics and accidents in one link affect the other links in the chain.(Faisat et al 2006).The same situation can be applied to humanitarian relief operation with focus rather on people in emergency need while sustaining competency as well.

Supply chain risk management assumes importance in the wake of organizations understanding that their risk susceptibility is dependent on other constituents of their supply chain.(Faisat et al 2006)

2.1 Enablers of Risk Mitigation

Though SCM has matured much as a discipline, risk management in an overall context of supply chain is still in its nascent stage. In this paper, some variables that can impact risk management in the supply chain are selected based on literature review .

2.1.1 Information sharing

According to Hahn et al (2000)effective communication and coordination among all elements of the supply chain are essential to its success. Increasing the visibility of demand information across supply chain reduces the risks (Chopra and Sodhi, 2004). Henriott (1999) stated information sharing as a prerequisite for trust and current models for SCM .It has been reviewed that the sharing of business information is a crucial element, which binds supply chains together from end-to-end (Zhenxin et al 2001; Schary and Skjøtt-Larsen, 2001). Cachon and Fisher (2000) and Lee et al (2000) have all analyzed the benefits of sharing real-time information on demands and/or inventory levels between suppliers and customers. In studies by Lee et al(1997a, b) it was concluded that information sharing can significantly minimize the consequences of the bullwhip effect. Furthermore, Lee and Whang (2000) suggested that information is a basic enabler for tight coordination in a supply chain.

2.1.2 Information security

Data and information security risks are largely under the control of the organization (Finch, 2004).He stated further that the information that an organization communicates with its supply chain partners is among the most critical of its assets. The goal of security is to reduce the enterprise's risk of losses caused by intrusion, system misuse, privilege abuse, tampering, fraud, etc. Protection must be provided against external threats and from internal abuse. Kolluru and Meredith (2001) have presented the design of security architecture that specifies the security services that supply chain practitioners need to implement for a secure, scalable and interoperable communication of information with their trading partners. Shaw (2000) has noted that security and access privilege are two important issues in implementing internet and extranet technologies in supply chains. In this regard, Warren and Hutchinson (2000) have stressed the need of security aspects when using IT in supply chains. According to Jharkharia and Shankar (2005) security issue is one of the barriers of effective IT enablement of supply chains. The Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI,in 2010 warned about fake relief organisation websites operating as a result of Haiti catastrophe where donors are defrauded.(FBI.org,2010)

2.1.3 Strategic risk planning

Those companies that will be successful are those that can identify and develop contingency plans for the various risks that exist internally and externally to the organization (Zolkos, 2003a). At the strategic level, supply chain risk management is relatively new and rapidly expanding discipline that is transforming the way that manufacturing and non-manufacturing operations meet the needs of their customers (Gunasekaran et al 2004). Formulating an appropriate and effective organizational strategy can to a certain extent mitigate supply chain risks (Finch, 2004). The optimization of the complete supply chain is accomplished through efficient planning decisions and thus supply chain policy is increasingly recognized as a strategic means tantamount to the firm's other operational strategies (Tiwana, 2000). According to Chopra and Sodhi (2004), managers must do two things when they begin to construct a supply-chain risk management strategy. First, they must create a shared organization wide understanding of supply-chain risk and secondly, they must determine how to adapt general risk-mitigation approaches to the circumstances of their particular organisation.

2.1.4 Risk sharing in a supply chain

According to Mentzer et al(2001) a key component for SCM is sharing risks between the members of the supply chain. Employment of locals and using their transports in Ethiopia by WFP is a clear demonstration. Souter (2000) stresses that organisation should not only focus on their own risks: they must also focus on risks in other links in their supply chain. To assess supply chain risk exposures, the company must identify not only direct risks to its operations, but also the potential causes or sources of those risks at every significant link along the supply chain (Christopher et al 2002). Some supply chain/logistics leaders are discussing the concept of applying governance models across entire supply chains from third- and fourth-tier suppliers through to ultimate customers and consumers. This requires the identification of each and every step in the process, some forms of certification and oversight, definitions of contractual requirements, models of enforcement, and creates yet another point of intersection by supply chain/logistics through legal arrangements with suppliers and customers (Cavinato, 2004).

2.1.5 Knowledge about risks in a supply chain.

According to Harland et al (2003), there are many different forms of supply chain risks which can be divided into different classes according to how its realization impacts on a business and its environment. Hallikas et al (2004) suggest that improved understanding about risks in a supply chain helps to make better decisions and decreases the risks of both a single organization and a whole network. According to Morgan (2004) risk in a supply chain can be sorted in four general categories namely political, economic,terrorism related and "other." By understanding the variety and interconnectedness of supply-chain risks, managers can tailor balanced, effective risk-reduction strategies for their organisation (Chopra and Sodhi, 2004).

2.1.6 Continual risk analysis and assessment

Environments in which supply chains works are very dynamic, and risks to a supply chain may change due to changes in the political/economic conditions of the environment and so continual monitoring of risks assumes importance. It provides a disciplined environment for proactive decision making to assess continuously what could go wrong, determine which risks are important to deal with, and implement strategies to deal with those risks (Shtub et al 1994). This steps assumes importance because a supply chain works in a dynamic environment where risk situations is dependent on factors like changing political or economic situations, formation of new alliances, takeovers, mergers, etc. According to Sinha et al (2004), risk analysis is a practice with methods and tools for identifying risks in a process. By identifying a risk, decision-makers become aware of events that may cause disturbances. To assess supply chain risk exposures, the company must identify not only direct risks to its operations, but also the potential causes or sources of those risks at every significant link along the supply chain (Norrman and Jansson, 2004). To manage supply-chain risks, it is necessary that a company identify risk indicators in its processes that enable the firm to measure risk in its supply chains (Zolkos, 2003b)



The dramatic reduction in price of computers and their increasing speed and portability led to the revolution in electronics, computing, and telecommunications. This revolution has transformed how we live, work, communicate, and learn (Gates, 1995). Stephenson and Anderson (1997) traced the changes this revolution has produced in disaster response. This Section characterizes that discussion and describes the current state of communication, logistics, and humanitarian information systems. Below is the overview. of transitional and developmental stages of technology in SCM

3.1.1Access Stage

Microprocessors substantially changed the cost of computing in the early 1980s. Usable desktop computers were suddenly within reach of businesses and individuals. Rudimentary software became available allowing word processing, database management, and numerical analysis. Diskettes made data portable.

According to Russell,(2005)The impact of microprocessors on disaster efforts was at first limited by the cost of storage and inadequacy of early databases. He further stated that the Federal institutions and corporations, such as FEMA and Union Carbide, created in-house solutions. These applications were poorly documented, relied on printed spreadsheets to transmit results, and were not portable.

He discussed despite limitations, how computers were used for administrative tasks, how they allowed field offices the ability to produce their own documents and run interactive calculations.

Spreadsheets could calculate food requirements. Databases could track beneficiaries. Project management became much easier and independent from the main office. MIT's Center for Transportation Studies developed one of the first evacuation software packages. NETVAC was a dynamic network model for the evacuation of nuclear power plants (Sheffi, Mahmassani, & Powell, 1980). Also, EIS (Emergency Information Systems) International Corporation recognized the need to prepare for and communicate during disasters and created the first commercial attempt to use computers in real-time emergency information management. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), such as SPLASH and SLOSH (Griffith, 1986), were also beginning to be developed to map disaster risks (Marston, 1986). These systems utilize computer generated maps as an interface for integrating and accessing massive amounts of location based information.

Radio communications also advanced during the 1980s. Amateur radio operators have provided emergency communications during disasters since 1910 (Coile, 1997). Amateur radio operators set up a wireless digital packet network before the internet became widespread. Today boaters still use digital radio packet networks to send and receive e-mails while at sea. In 1983, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) worked with VITA to combine packet radio and low-orbiting satellites to reach isolated areas in Africa (Garriott,1991). Communication systems such as these are critical when managing relief operations, especially in an emergency.

3.1.2 Software and Communications Era

The start of the 1990s witnessed a continuation of the trends from the 1980s. Equipment became smaller and more portable, processing power increased, and bandwidth increased.

Information became more readily available in databases and on CD-ROM. By 1990, laptops and portable printers could be carried on a disaster response.

These equipment advances led to the creation of commercial software. According to Russell,(2005) EIS continued the development of its resource and incident tracking databases. Soft Risk also entered the crisis management software space. GIS systems left expensive workstations with the introduction of software packages such as ARC-Info, MapInfo, and Intergraph. He further discussed how logistics software was also developed during this period and how The World Food Programme (WFP) created the Food Aid Information System. The PanAmerican Health Organization (PAHO) created SUMA to track medical supplies in emergencies (De Ville de Goyet, 1993).

However, communication innovations had a much stronger impact on humanitarian efforts. The fax machine was the first innovation on the scene. Quick, easy, cheap, and reliable, the fax was an instantly popular means of document transfer. During this same time, telecommunication companies were switching from voice networks to packet switching networks allowing the efficient transfer of data. Commercial e-mail services such as CompuServe became available. Electronic bulletin boards became popular places to share information. Emergency management professionals established several, such as the Emergency Preparedness Information Exchange (EPIX). This electronic communication allowed remote access to information and broke down the barriers to information exchange.

Later in the 1990s, computers became faster and cheaper, software became easier to learn and more robust, networks proliferated, and e-mail use became commonplace. During this time-mail list servers developed as a primary source of information and communication. DHA (now known as OCHA) list servers delivered situation reports to interested parties during the conflict in the Balkans. (Rusell, 2005)

This set the stage for the emergence of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the Internet. Supported by open standards (HTTP) and free browser software (Mosaic), the WWW doubled in size every few months. It is hard to imagine the world before the Internet. Information is readily available to anyone with a connection. Research is fast and much more comprehensive given improvements in access to literature. As soon as disaster as occurs, bulletins and situation reports are written, they are available on the Internet almost immediately.

3.1.3 Current State - Communications, Community building,

and Software

Recent work has seen progress in communications and in communities created to enhance communication. Advances in wireless communication include new standards and widespread use in the field. For example, GIS provides critical information to relief agency staff about how humanitarian support efforts are progressing and helps ensure agencies are acting in a coordinated and efficient manner. Once in the field, the coordination continues as new data are added and distributed through wireless applications and Internet connectivity. The widespread availability of the Internet has also encouraged the creation of networks of relief workers.


During a disaster, communication is as important as food and water. A disaster can damage telecommunication infrastructure. If an event happens in a densely populated area, thousands of people can try to make calls at the same time overloading the system. NGOs recognize the importance of communication. Those with sufficient resources have developed internal communication solutions. For example, the American Red Cross, through its Disaster Services Technology Integration Project, has created mobile communication trucks. The telecom trucks, once positioned, provide "48 phone lines, high-speed internet access, e-mail and satellite-enabled communication with national headquarters" (Larkin, 2001). These trucks were deployed during the response to the 9/11 attacks and during Hurricane Lili in 2002. The ability to have real time information on victims, volunteers, logistics, and financial information allows the American Red Cross to respond in an efficiently coordinated manner (Rudduck, 2002).

Organizations operating in more remote locations or on smaller budgets must rely on other options.

Table 1 below is a list of some of available communication options.

Source-The most practical communication options (Cutts & Dingle, 1998)****should this table be here or in appendix?

Others include:.

E-mail: Electronic mail is an efficient system that brings together

telecommunications and computer science. It makes it possible for

individuals and organizations to communicate in writing and exchange digitalized data (graphics, audio, video). However, its use is currently restricted by the availability of telephone lines. Although satellite telephones can also be used to send e-mail, sending large, complexly formatted messages or file attachments must be discouraged because of the long time they will take to transmit and the

resultant line saturation;

The Internet: The Internet is a global "network of networks" which

can transmit information around the world in seconds. E-mail is one

of the main components of Internet traffic, but many other services

are available. The most prominent example is the World Wide Web.

Nowadays, it is rare to find an organization that does not have its own

Web site or "home page", with information about its activities, facts

about the emergencies it is involved in, and appeals for contributions

to relief efforts. These sites can be visited by all computer users with

an Internet connection, regardless of where they happen to be.

Coppe,1989 highlights the benefits of the internet in Supply Chain as

a)Enhancing more collaborative, timely product development through enhanced communications between stakeholders

b)Reducing product obsolesce and channel inventory due to closer linkage in the supply chain,

c)Communication costs and customer costs reduction with more interactive and tailored support capability .

Communication and Collaboration.

Communication is often difficult in a disaster setting, but it can make all the difference. Accurate information or even just visibility into the rest of the relief chain helps. Collaboration refers to work done along a single organization's supply chain or in cooperation with another

agency, for example, efforts to work more smoothly with your supplier or sharing resources with another NGO, such as a warehouse.

Humanitarian organizations often use the terms collaboration and coordination interchangeably. In this thesis, collaboration conveys cooperation between two agencies or along a single relief chain, while coordination denotes the organization of efforts by a group.

Community Building

There is a body of research addressing coordination and the use of information technology. Malone and Crowston (1994) first described coordination as the process of managing dependencies between activities through information technology and cooperative work tools. Often, in the time immediately following a disaster, information is fragmented and is hard to interpret (OECD, 2004). In an effort to piece together disparate aspects of disaster relief, many applications and websites have been developed. These programs use information technology for sharing resources and transferring knowledge. Situation reports, reports on damage to infrastructure and critical systems, information about hazards, weather reports, casualty reports, interagency coordination information, and requests for assistance or resources are all shared as part of these information systems (Alexander, 2002).

The growth of the Internet has transformed this kind of collaboration and coordination into community building. An online community is the concept of bringing people together in a virtual space. It includes a variety of activities such as electronic collaboration, web-based discussions, e-mail lists, electronic libraries, distance learning, and web-inars. The Internet alleviates some of the difficulties in sharing learning and lessons, in accessing timely information, and in reducing duplication of efforts and humanitarian relief organizations have made a large effort in this area. Several of the bigger relief communities are discussed below.

Relief Web (http://www.reliefweb.int) was launched in October 1996 and is administered by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Relief Web is the world's leading on-line gateway to information for UN departments and agencies, NGOs, governments, donors, journalists and the public on complex humanitarian emergencies and disasters worldwide. It provides timely, reliable, and relevant information as events unfold, assisting the international humanitarian community in effective delivery of relief, preparedness, and prevention activities (About ReliefWeb, 2005).

AlertNet (http://www.alertnet.org) was launched by Reuters Foundation in 1997 to provide global news, communications, and logistics services to the international disaster relief community and the public. It delivers fast and reliable information to more than 300 member emergency relief organizations from over 80 countries so that they can respond quickly and efficiently to disasters. Anyone can access the public pages, which carry a news feed together with articles about the latest humanitarian crises. Membership allows exchange of professional information in a members-only password-protected zone and access to additional reference material and a more extensive news feed. The online service also includes the following: an international register of aid suppliers, databases of jobs, training, events, and contacts in the disaster relief community, plus relevant background information (Reuters AlertNet - About us,2004).

The United Nations Joint Logistics Center (UNJLC - http://www.unjlc.org) is an interagency group that co-ordinates and optimizes the logistics capabilities of responding humanitarian organizations. UNJLC is funded from voluntary contributions channeled through WFP (UNJLC, n.d.2008).

The Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN http://www.irinnews.org) operates in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. Its reporting focuses on strengthening universal access to timely, strategic, and non-partisan information to enhance the capacity of the humanitarian community to understand, respond to, and avert emergencies (United Nations - OCHA IRIN - About, 2005). IRIN further supports efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation by countering misinformation and propaganda

Aid Workers Network (http://www.aidworkers.net/) links relief and development field staff, enabling them to share support, ideas, and best practice. This web site aims to provide a comprehensive resource for busy field workers needing practical advice and proven resources to help with their current work.

Information systems also play a key role in disaster mitigation. The World Food Programme (WFP) and its early warning system, Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM -http://vam.wfp.org), supports the design, and assessment of WFP's emergency and development activities.(WFP.org,2008) USAID's Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-NET) also plays a similar role. The goal of FEWS NET (http://www.fews.net) is to strengthen the abilities of African countries and regional organizations to manage food insecurity through early warning and vulnerability information. The Humanitarian Early Warning Service (HEWSweb - http://www.hewsweb.org) is a broader inter-agency partnership aimed at

establishing a common platform for humanitarian early warnings and forecasts for natural hazards and socio-political developments worldwide. HEWSweb brings together and makes accessible global early warning information from multiple institutions (Early Warning Web Service, about us, n.d.2009).

Finally, Global Hand and the Logistician's Network are two smaller sites that try to solve logistical issues. Global Hand (http://www.globalhand.org) is a network which aims to help everyone in the gifts-in-kind arena find one another. Global Hand's goal is to be a one-stop-shop for all parties involved in the movement of goods needed for humanitarian purposes. Logisticians' Network (http://www.aidworkers.net/logistics) is a community of practice for field logisticians in relief and development organizations seeks to record lessons learned, offer advice, and provide examples of paperwork to save time for other logisticians.(aidsworkers,2007).

4 Supply Chain Management Tools-Minimising the risks:Maximising the benefits

Various supply chain management tools which have been developed over the years with IT inputs are available to provide intelligent decision support and execution management. Richmond et al,1989 discussed extensively, the supply chain management tools, supply chain configuration tools, demand planning tools, supply planning tools, transport planning and management tools, warehouse management tools and enterprise planning tools as all manifesting the benefits of ICT in supporting the operations of and flow of information in the supply chain to minimize risks and consequentially maximize benefits..

They further discussed the configuration tools in delivering quantified information to assist managers to determine the infrastructural and other physical characteristics of the organization operations and the importance of demand planning tools in predicting the future demand of products.

4.1 Logistics Software Used in Disaster Relief

Many organizations have been providing relief for decades. As the information technology revolution overtook them, they developed ad-hoc systems to help manage the logistics of disaster relief.

Table below provides a quick overview of some of the systems currently in

place by some humanitarian relief organizations.

Table 2



5 Benefits of ICT in Humanitarian Logistics.

5.1 Everyday Benefits

The impact of ICT on Humanitarian relief operations can not be over emphasized. The following benefits can be deduced from various advantages of Humanitarian logistics information systems as discussed above.

It can;

a) Enhance needs assessments by ensuring that field staff know what supplies are available for beneficiaries, either in local warehouses, pre-positioned emergency stocks or from local and international markets.

Share lists of supplies available in both local and international markets, including prices and lead times while logisticians are empowered to program staff to better plan their procurement activities.

b) Keep program staff informed of procurement activities will help to develop an understanding of the constraints within logistics and create trust.

c) Provide budget holder more accurate financial information regarding funds which are committed within the procurement process, to avoid the over or under spending of budgets.

d) Provide warehouse inventory reports to program staff to allow them to take more responsibility for their supplies, and ensure that they are utilized effectively.

e) Share information on the distribution of supplies to allow program staff to better monitor and evaluate activities and avoid the need for duplicate record keeping between logistics and programs.

f) More accurately divide logistics overhead costs such as warehouse rental, transportation and logistic staff wages into program budgets according to the activities logistics is supporting.

g) IT reduce lead time, prevent major risks of death and other calamities to aid workers.It also improve visibility in the humanitarian supply chain.

Subramani,2004 summarizes the benefits of IT in supply chain relationships in Table 3 below.

Source-Subramani/Benefits from IT use in Supply Chain Relationship,2004.

These benefits compliment each other and work to reduce various risks and improve efficiency in the supply chain.


The world has become ever more turbulent - due to environmental, political,

technological, competitive events and disturbances - the ability to forecast and plan for the future is dramatically reduced. Instead, the ability to adapt flexibly and quickly to unexpected, unplanned events has become the major condition for survival of any organization.

Information and communication Technology has been researched extensively to be enabler for Supply Chain adaptability. Barlow and Feng Li [2007], Choi et al. [2001],Christopher [2000], Dekkers and van Luttervelt [2006], Duclos et al. [2003], Gunasekaran andNgai [2004], Hagberg-Andersson [2006], Hertz [2001], Pathak et al. [2007], Surana et al.[2005], Tang and Tomlin [2008], VinodKumar et al. [2006], Wang et al. [2007], Wong et al.[2009] all variously discussed the usefulness and importance of ICT and adaptability to various prevailing circumstances in supply chain management.


In all supply chains, there are gains to be made from the better flow of information, up and down the stream of the flow of products. The internet has brought forth numerous possibilities to increase this flow of information, and encouraged organisations to closer integration of their information services (IS).

The use of ICT in supply chain brings about cordial and smooth relationship between various stakeholders. Without an integrated system of communication, it can be difficult for people, from the top to bottom to identify problems in the supply line or respond quickly to a change in demand .Angeles [2009], Devaraj et al. [2007], Frohlich and Westbrook [2002], Kulp et al. [2004], Kyung Kyu Kim et al. [2005].

Lai et al. [2008], Ordanini and Rubera [2008], Sezen [2008], Swink et al. [2003] have also variously discussed the ICT as key enabler for supply chain integration.

Taking a step further, Barlow and Feng, 2007;Gunasekaran and Ngai,2004 have also discussed Information & Communication Technology as a key enabler for achieving both: a higher level of Supply Chain integration and a higher level of the firm's Supply Chain adaptability

6 Summary

Regardless of whether the delivery and distribution of a many-ton shipment or of a small envelope in a relief operation is at stake, identifying and following up on these items en route and certifying that they have been delivered to their rightful recipient has always been a challenging and sensitive task. This involves risks at every level of the operation including the safety and security of aid workers.

The evolvement and advancements in technology over the time have provided many options for the monitoring and control of humanitarian relief activities.

Bar codes, magnetic strips, and optical character recognition, to name a few, make it easy to capture and convey relevant information with near-perfect precision. The visibility and other benefits of ICT clearly have positive impacts on risk mitigation in complex emergency operations.