humanitarianism and technology

Effects of Technology on Humanitarianism

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The number of persons in need of humanitarian assistance has increased as humanitarian crises have gotten more complicated and long-lasting. New technology’s promise to satisfy the needs of people in humanitarian emergencies has recently been a concern. Humanitarian groups have long tried to use cutting-edge technology to effectively respond to disasters and conflicts, and their zeal has only grown in recent years. Various technologies promise more precise targeting as well as a reduction in fraud and corruption, ensuring that help reaches the most vulnerable people. The most effective way to accomplish this is to shift our existing system from one that reacts to one that anticipates. By enabling earlier, faster, and potentially more effective humanitarian response, new and developing technologies can help promote this paradigm change from reaction to anticipation.

Positive Effects of Technology on Humanitarianism

Information has been recognized as a basic need in humanitarian catastrophes throughout the last decade, and significant progress has been made toward better data-driven decision-making. Technology will enable earlier, faster, and more effective humanitarian responses in the coming decade. However, technology is not a means to an end, and its use alone will not change the paradigm. Rather, technology investment must be accompanied by measures to guarantee that it is ethical, sustainable, and inclusive, while also safeguarding human life and dignity. Converging actions, undertaken in collaboration with affected communities and partners from all sectors, could powerfully facilitate transformation in the years ahead. The response to COVID-19 highlighted both the benefits and drawbacks of new and developing technologies while also speeding up their adoption and utilization.

  • Artificial intelligence can help enhance forecasts and decision-making by facilitating the study and interpretation of large and complicated humanitarian datasets. Artificial intelligence aided in outbreak mapping, diagnosis, therapy and vaccine development in response to COVID-19.
  • People affected by humanitarian situations can receive quick input through mobile apps, chatbots, and social media. Chatbots assisted with telemedicine and supplied critical information during the COVID-19 response.
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and remote sensing can help with vulnerability assessment, mapping, and monitoring. Medical supplies and testing samples were transported by UAVs in response to COVID-19.
  • Digital cash can offer quick and flexible help.
  • Biometrics can aid in the creation of digital identity and the reunification of families. Contactless access to aid was made possible thanks to biometrics, blockchain, and digital cash.
  • Children were able to continue their education, businesses were able to stay open, and health professionals were able to deliver care online using digital tools.
  • These technologies, when used together, can improve access to information, help, and livelihoods, as well as promote a more thorough and relevant needs analysis, a more prioritized and people-centred response, and more meaningful and systematic monitoring.

However, concerns about data protection and privacy, cybersecurity, personal liberty, and misinformation grew during the same period. The tremendous change to virtual environments, remote schooling, videoconferencing, and e-commerce that occurred overnight raised basic challenges about technical preparedness and efficacy, as well as digital inequality. The use of technology in humanitarian situations poses a number of serious hurdles and risks.

Negative Effects of Technology on Humanitarianism

  • Inadequate data protection can inflict harm, exacerbate insecurity, and obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid on a principled basis.
  • Unequal access to technology, connectivity, and digital literacy can exacerbate underlying vulnerabilities and gender biases.
  • Incomplete datasets about affected people can lead to digital prejudice.
  • Technologies can fail, break down, and cause distrust.
  • Technology’s potential is always limited by the data set, decision-making process, user distribution, and political buy-in that it is based on.

Because of the intricacy of these risks, it is necessary to comprehend and imagine dangers that are not generally connected with a specific technology, field, or implementing organization. When envisioned, these dangers are abstract and delocalized, but when they materialize, they are extraordinarily local and intimate, with actual implications for real individuals. Data may contribute to more effective aid delivery, but it also exposes vulnerable groups to risks that are difficult to anticipate or recognize in advance. Because many threats are indistinguishable, it is critical for humanitarian actors to try to comprehend and visualize them outside their own previous experiences.

Individual technologies have been suggested as being especially important for transforming humanitarian aid delivery in the coming years. However, their sudden and irreversible inclusion in the humanitarian toolkit is unprecedented, making comprehensive professionalization for the humanitarian sector more important than ever. For more with regard to humanitarianism, subscribe to our newsletter.


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