The project has actively worked to promote research, dissemination, and international dialogue during the second year of COVID-19, although travel opportunities and physical participation has continued to prove elusive. The project has provided important contributions to humanitarian policymaking, practice and scholarship in the following domains: The project has become an important stakeholder in debates on childrens digital bodies (UNICEF The case for better governance of childrens data, and The Lancet and Financial Times Commission on governing health futures 2030: growing up in a digital world.) With respect to the ethics of humanitarian technology, the project has engaged in several stock taking exercises. Increasingly, in fields of global governance grappling with the regulation of emergent technologies (cyberspace, AI, robots) there is talk of an ethics fatigue, and of ethics washing. The project has contributed to debates on what this means for a field of practice which in recent years has embraced ethics as a way to deal with the consequences of humanitarian technology, the rise of the innovation paradigm and more recently the wholesale digital transformation of the sector. Furthermore, the project has also begun to question the future of the humanitarian innovation paradigm, and whether this paradigm has come full circle in the context of a sector-wide digital transformation. In practice, ?humanitarian innovation? is appropriated by the humanitarian sector as a series of piecemeal projects directed at ?fixing? the system, making it better, faster, stronger, and more secure. With respect to humanitarian data, the project has spearheaded important and high-level discussions on health data ? including its expansion into the domain of consumer genomics ?and the role of contested data in CRSV and aid. Finally, project members have contributed to set the stage internationally for discussions on the impact of the abandonment of digital hardware (biometrics) and the insecurity arising out of unprotected databases (digital ID and passports) compromised software and access points after the fall of the Afghan government.
How does innovation in the domain of humanitarian ICTs and digitization shape and challenge humanitarian action and its contribution to the SDGs? The growing import of ICTs and data generate new ethical questions for humanitarians. The use of mobiles, biometric devices, wearables or drones to collect information about beneficiaries, and new partnerships with the private sector, increasingly shape emergency responses. Humanitarians and policy makers have not fully identified or grappled with the emergent ethical challenges with respect to how new technologies produce data about beneficiaries (such as digital templates of fingerprints and the iris, or real-time information about bodily functions) and the distribution of aid (information apps, blockchain, wearables). Challenges arise from technology implementation in emergency contexts, cybersecurity threats, profit motifs, experimental practices and the securitization of humanitarian data.
This multi-disciplinary, qualitative project provides a conceptual and empirical basis for addressing these questions, incorporating a responsible research and innovation perspective. The objective is to engage all stakeholders (researchers, policymakers, and operational actors) in a conversation about how ethical humanitarian innovation can contribute to realize the SDGs in an accountable manner.
The project is developed around four work packages on:
(1) The place of data and digital bodies in humanitarian operations
(2) Transformations of aid: market logic and intimate tracking
(3) The humanitarian digitization-security nexus
(4) Ethical humanitarian innovation: critical lessons for SDGs and policy
WP1-3 will produce 7 empirical case studies.
Project partners include PRIO, University of Manchester (HCRI), University of Copenhagen and the START Network labs. The project team and advisory board consist of leading humanitarian technology and innovation scholars and practitioners, with broad field and policy experience.