Since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the use of digital innovations and new technologies is increasing to provide humanitarian assistance. While it shows the prevalence of data revolution in the aid sector, the relation of humanitarian organisations 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 in crisis mapping to the expansion of drones to facilitate relief distribution, humanitarian innovations capture a large diversity of digital devices meant to improve needs assessments, relief and protection during disasters, conflicts and migration. Exploring the entanglements between innovation labs, start-ups and humanitarian governance, this course analyses opportunities and challenges of such innovations beyond tech utopia, to consider ethical as well as privacy and protection issues

More detailed information 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

  • Techno-optimism: Rethinking innovation in the aid sector
  • From Techno-capitalism to techno-colonialism: governing through technologies
  • Digital risks: ethics, privacy and data protection
  • Sector 1: Biometrics
  • Sector 2: Drones
  • Sector 3: New information technologies
  • Sector 4: Blockchains and bitcoins
  • 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 and a passport photo (jpg)


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