“A Success Story that Can Be Sold”? A Case Study of Humanitarian Use of Drones

In 2019 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS) (2019)
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Increasingly, humanitarian organizations across the globe have been implementing innovative technologies in their practice as they respond to the needs of communities affected by conflicts, disasters, and public health emergencies. However, technological innovation may intersect with moral values, norms, and commitments, and may challenge humanitarian imperatives. Through the examination of an empirical case study on drone mapping, this paper aims to explore three questions: (1) What are the dynamics between aid delivery and technological innovation in the humanitarian enterprise? (2) How are structural problems addressed in an environment in which technology is being portrayed as a force for change? (3) What moral responsibilities towards vulnerable populations should humanitarian stakeholders bear when introducing innovative technologies in humanitarian action. Discussion revolves around the ideology of “technological utopia”, and the normative role of technology in the aid sector - to make substantive impacts, or to produce “success stories”. In conclusion, a call for rigorous ethical analysis to help foster value sensitive humanitarian innovation (VSHI) is made.



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Ning Wang
University of Zürich (PhD)

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