Technology for Humanitarian Action

Technology for Humanitarian Action

Technology for Humanitarian Action

Technology for Humanitarian Action


Humanitarian workers around the world struggle under dangerous conditions. Yet many do not have the technological tools readily available elsewhere to help them realize their mission to provide essential services and save lives. This book, the fruit of a historic conference, is a practical guide to current technologies that can help relief and humanitarian aid workers succeed. Designed to facilitate needed technology transfer to the humanitarian sector, the essays focus on areas wheretechnology is underused and predict where new technological advances may be applied to relief efforts. The essays cover essential areas: communications technology and infrastructure support and security. They describe how such technologies as personal identification and tagging systems, software radios, wireless networks, and computer-aided language translation can promote safety and manage large groups of people. Other essays outline new technological solutions to such challenges as mine removal, water purification, and energy generation.


Kevin M. Cahill, M.D .

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE is a complex undertaking. Even at an individual level the capacity to do more harm than good is ever present. Good intentions are simply not enough, and inappropriate or misplaced aid can further complicate existing tragedies. When whole communities are affected—as happens following floods, famines, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, and, increasingly, during and after armed conflict or as the result of oppression, revolution, political corruption, or incompetence— then often preventable human morbidity and mortality rates rise exponentially.

In previous volumes in this series, colleagues from around the world have considered Basics of International Humanitarian Missions, Emergency Relief Operations, Traditions, Values, and Humanitarian Assistance and in a recent volume, Human Security for All, have emphasized the inherent dangers and difficult choices of humanitarian work.

Some, if not most, of the solutions to the current limitations for humanitarian workers lie in developing new, appropriate, and cost-effective technology or in discovering how to better utilize existing technology. One of the obvious problems in achieving improved technological application to humanitarian action is in educating the powerful academic, research, and industrial sectors of society that humanitarian assistance is not merely a noble effort to alleviate suffering and provide help to those in need. It is also big business. A recent review article in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs notes that the contribution of private U.S. companies, charitable foundations, religious orders, and individuals is far greater than public government funds. Together, however, they total an impressive $57 billion per year, no mean sum by any . . .

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