Rethinking Access: How Humanitarian Technology Blurs Control and Care

Larissa Fast, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S151-S168
Issue numberS2
Early online date1 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • agentic capacity
  • digital technology
  • digitalised data
  • digitalised recipient bodies
  • humanitarian access
  • humanitarian technology governance
  • vile bodies

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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