Since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, enthusiasm over the potential of digital innovations and new technologies to improve humanitarian assistance has dominated the aid sector. While it shows the prevalence of technological determinism and data revolution among aid actors, the relation of humanitarian assistance to innovations is not unprecedented. The growing involvement of tech companies in global philanthropy has only accelerated this “innovation turn”. From crowd-sourced data used to create crisis mapping to the expansion of drones to facilitate relief distribution, humanitarian innovations capture a large diversity of digital and technological creations meant to improve the efficiency of humanitarian assistance during disasters, conflicts and migration. Exploring the entanglements between neoliberal actors, innovation labs, “tech for good”, data management and humanitarian governance allows questioning the opportunities and challenges of such innovations beyond the “tech utopia”.

More detailed information about the programme can be found in this “Course-at-a-glance” document.

Objectives of the course

At the end of the course, you will be able to:
• understand the past and current relation of the aid sector with technical and technological innovations.
• assess the main ideologies that inform the innovation turn in the aid sector and the entanglements between humanitarian governance and tech philanthropy.
• question data extraction, management, and protection by humanitarian organisations.
• differentiate potential uses and sectors for digital innovations, from health to information, translation, logistics, cash and voucher assistance.
• critically examine such innovations’ sociopolitical, ethical and technological challenges and limitations.
• discuss cooperation and collaboration with the private sector and the humanitarian innovations labs where objects and techniques are conceived and implemented.



Around 20-25 hours of work each week, including:

  • Asynchronous self-study activities (such as case studies, videos, recorded slideshows, readings, etc.).
  • Synchronous live sessions.


Structure of the course

  • Rethinking innovation in the aid sector: historical and socio-anthropological perspectives.
  • Technological determinism and global philanthropy.
  • Ethics and challenges of innovations, data management and protection.
  • Sector 1: Digital technologies for healthcare and people on the move.
  • Sector 2: New information technologies for risk communication.
  • Sector 3: Drones and humanitarian assistance.
  • Sector 4: Blockchains and bitcoins in humanitarian programmes.
  • Professionals in the humanitarian, development or social sector looking to develop their competencies in using digital innovations and new technologies
  • Professionals from other sectors (donor agency, healthcare workers, communication and media, interpretation and translation, tech startups, engineering, logistics) who wish to increase their understanding of digital innovations in humanitarian contexts
  • Graduate students with relevant volunteer or intern experience, looking to undertake a postgraduate course with a view to entering the humanitarian sector.

Admission requirements:

  1. a university qualification (bachelor’s degree or equivalent);
  2. at least three years of relevant professional experience;
  3. excellent command of English;
  4. motivation working in the humanitarian sector.


Documents required:

  • CV (Résumé)
  • Copy of your highest diploma
  • Work certificate or official document of your current job position
  • Proof of English language competence (TOEIC/TOEFL/IELTS or equivalent); see details here
  • Scanned copy of passport


More information about the admission process is available on our application page.

  • Digital innovations in humanitarian action: opportunities and challengesDates 16 - 27 October 2023
  • Digital innovations in humanitarian action: opportunities and challengesDuration Two weeks
  • Digital innovations in humanitarian action: opportunities and challengesLocation Online
  • Digital innovations in humanitarian action: opportunities and challengesLanguage English
  • Digital innovations in humanitarian action: opportunities and challengesCREDITS 1 ECTS
  • Fee 1,700 CHF
  • Application Deadline 24 September 2023
  • If applying for a scholarship Deadline: No scholarships are available for this course.