Rethinking Access: How Humanitarian Technology Blurs Control and Care

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Surprisingly little attention is paid to the role of digital technology and related forms of data production, storage, processing, and sharing in humanitarian governance. This paper uses Michael Barnett's (2013) conceptualisation of humanitarian governance when arguing for a better accounting of technology in literature on humanitarian governance. Specifically, it proposes a two‐fold alertness to governance of (a) the uses of new technology and (b) that which is produced by digital technologies. This elucidates important issues, including that of access to digitalised data collected from humanitarian subjects, with implications for their (in)security. The paper concludes by suggesting that access is no longer ‘only’ about challenges of gaining access to vulnerable populations, but also about challenges of preventing access to vulnerable digital bodies and their use for aggressive purposes. In short, access and protection acquire a new dimension and analyses of humanitarian governance must be more attentive to the role of digital technology.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Issue numberS2
Early online date1 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019