About the Roundtable:
In February 2017, the Humanitarian Technology Survey hosted by RSIS introduced a range of innovations in both hardware and software being trialled for more efficient and effective humanitarian operations. One major conclusion of this survey noted the importance of critically investigating the impact of new technologies both on those affected by disaster and on humanitarian practice itself in Southeast Asia and beyond. That conclusion drove the NTS Centre’s December 2017 policy report entitled, “Humanitarian Technology: New Innovations, Familiar Challenges and Difficult Balances.” That paper identified four critical balances that require satisfaction in order for new technologies to improve humanitarian operations concretely: between aid provision and other public goods, between short- and long-term interests of disaster-affected populations, between the needs of disaster responders and those of the disaster-affected, and between centralising response co-ordination and decentralising information directly to those caught in disasters.
RSIS seeks to expand this critical line of inquiry through a roundtable. This event will explore the extent to which critiques of humanitarian technology and humanitarian innovation made within European conceptions of humanitarian action are useful to frame the challenges and opportunities that technology and innovation present for humanitarian response in Southeast Asia. In particular, it will consider the historical but evolving emphasis put on natural and manmade disasters that underlies humanitarian thinking in this region, and any implications that has on prevailing critical thinking. It will also assess the relevance of particular contextual factors such as highly mobile populations (which may have bearing on migrant/refugee needs); relatively high, but unevenly spread, internet penetration; and particular geo-political factors as they relate to technological use in humanitarianism such as China’s rise and subsequent interest in “soft power” projection, conflict dynamics in the Philippines, intercommunal tensions in Myanmar and elsewhere, and the particular threat of climate change facing this region.
The roundtable will also present an opportunity for policymakers and academics working on these questions in Europe and Southeast Asia to build relationships.