An important component of the Engineering for Humanitarian Action Partnership (EHA) is the development of an educational program by the Swiss Institutes of Technology, teaming up with the International Committee of the Red Cross. It seeks to strengthen the impact of humanitarian actors by developing specific knowledge and skills of people working in various fields of the sector.

EPFL MOOCs on Digital Upskilling

Most humanitarian organizations are already engaged in digital transformation. To respect the “do no harm” principle, they need to responsibly deploy new technologies centered on the needs of affected populations. This requires their staff to understand how to balance risks and benefits.

Goal

Teaming up to meet this challenge, EPFL and the ICRC are producing two Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) to help humanitarian organizations to equip their workforce with a holistic understanding of Information and Communication Technologies. Acquiring these skills will allow humanitarians to adapt to new needs, better assess risks and opportunities and to make informed decisions.

Partners

The development of this ambitious training program is a joint effort of the ICRC and two centers at EPFL , the Centre for Digital Trust (C4DT), and the EssentialTech Centre, supported by the Center for Digital Education. The partnership between the ICRC, and its aim to widen its protection and assistance mandate to the digital sphere, and the excellence of EPFL in technology and digital education, makes this a unique offering. The partner’s ambitions are to bring changes in the whole humanitarian sector.

Audience and content

These MOOCs are designed for humanitarian workers without any particular IT background. Starting with basics about how computers, networks and the internet work, it will then allow the audience to better grasp the technical aspects of information security and data protection, cybersecurity as well as new technological trends (artificial intelligence, blockchain, etc). Links to day-to-day humanitarian work will be fostered through case studies and interviews with practitioners, such as ICRC staff.

ETHZ module on policy, geopolitics, and strategy of cybersecurity

The ETH Center for Security Studies (CSS) was best placed to respond to the demand form the ICRC to offer a course on policy, geopolitics, and strategy of cybersecurity for the humanitarian sector. The CSS routinely runs courses on these topics, including strategic aspects of cyber operations and cyber conflicts, decision-making in cyber operations, the roles of the state in cybersecurity more broadly, cyber power, forms of cyber violence, public attribution and strategic communication, subversion and power politics, as well as the future of cybersecurity. To run these courses, the CSS draws on expert research staff focusing on cybersecurity politics.

 Course format:

The module will be taught over one week, in-person at ETH Zurich. The first iteration, offered in spring 2022, will mainly be with ICRC staff, to afterwards fine-tune and adapt the course based on participants feedback. Future iterations will be advertised to staff from other institutions.