ISBN: 978-1-5261-7335-5

Andrea Düchting

Centre for Humanitarian Action

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Sandvik’s book is an ‘invitation to dialogue’ and talk about the digital transformation of the humanitarian sector and migration field, its current state, history, and progress. She outlines innovative or extractive processes when using technology in humanitarian operations by exploring different scenarios and referring to practical examples, including but not limited to the ICRC data incident back in 2022, UNICEF’s Wearables for Good innovation challenge in 2015, and the innovation fields labs of the Disaster Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) between 2017 and 2019. The examples show how the sector emerged from technological solutionism to innovation and, nowadays, digital transformation. The sector characterised through massive experimentation and extractive practices which have long been neglecting potential risks, and, often, against the sector’s core principle of doing no harm, harming people affected by crisis. The book provides new insights and perspectives on current digital dilemmas while putting people at the centre because, as Sandvik states, ’human-beings are never discardable or can never be reduced to data reservoirs’. The humanitarian innovation ecosystem is analysed by unpacking extractive practices when working with the private sector and creating interlinkages between different functional layers such as legal and digital identity, humanitarian innovation ethics and community engagement or token participation. In this way, she triggers the reader to imagine future scenarios and think about potential risks. Sandvik competently navigates the challenge of investigating a very dynamic and rapidly changing environment by learning from past examples and sharing her own experience. She highlights the importance of purpose definition, choice and decision-making for humanitarian actors and people affected by crisis, in contexts where we know what we don’t know.