Call for papers for Humanitarian Alternatives eighth issue

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In view of the publication of its 8th issue, to be released in July 2018, Humanitarian Alternatives is calling for papers under its next focus theme “The rise of new technologies: utility, misuses and meaning”. If you are an actor, a researcher or an observer of the international humanitarian community and wish to submit a proposal for an article, please send us a summary and the outline of the paper (2 pages maximum) before March 5th at the following address: contact@alternatives-humanitaires.org. We will respond within 15 days following the reception of your proposal.

The final deadline for submitting the article is April 30. Please observe that the article must be around 15,000 signs (approximately 2,400 words). 

 

Humanitarian Alternatives
Issue 8 – July 2018
Statement of issues for the “Focus” theme

The rise of new technologies: utility, misuses and meaning

The use of innovation has always been a core issue for actors of the humanitarian sector, in the hope of optimizing their action. A few historical examples support this, such as Handicap International’s bamboo prosthesis, Nutriset’s Plumpy’Nut – in collaboration with Action Against Hunger – or Oxfam’s Bladders, developed for emergency water supply. Over the last decade, new technologies have conquered the humanitarian field. For instance, the use of ICT’s for medical care or crisis management, the use of drones, satellite imagery and Big Data for mapping vulnerable zones or anticipating future epidemic outbreaks, or the development of new ways to collect money via social media. While new technologies can give significant added value to humanitarian aid, their use also brings up new issues and substantial risks.

Certain uses of new technologies raise crucial concerns about the “do no harm” humanitarian imperative and its observance, especially regarding protection of data and individuals. Beyond ethical issues, the humanitarian sector is a considerable economic development opportunity for the tech industry – in search of partners of choice in order to promote its image. And so it is essential to find an economic model that guarantees access to new technologies for the most vulnerable while preserving humanitarian actors’ independence of action and decision making capacity from the private sector. The tremendous acceleration of the digital transformation underway is both a formidable opportunity and a destabilizing factor. The introduction of new approaches can have unexpected consequences, which an innovation policy must properly take into account. Finally, the “risk culture” and the acceptance of potential failure are powerful drivers of the innovation sector that do not fit well into humanitarian contexts – where bad choices can have catastrophic consequences.

The objective of this issue on new technologies is to take a step back and reflect on the notions of innovation and progress – two concepts that are often used interchangeably. But do our uses of innovation – and consequently of new technologies – perpetuate the idea of progress, or do they divert from it? What – in current innovation – can guarantee progress within humanitarian interventions? From an organizational point of view, what are the direct or indirect effects of the use of new technologies for actors of humanitarian aid? These questions are even more important because the innovation discourse seems to focus on the approach’s results and products, with no reflection on the meaning and drivers of these dynamics.

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