Big data and humanitarian supply networks: Can Big Data give voice to the voiceless?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Billions of US dollars are spent each year in emergency aid to save lives and alleviate the suffering of those affected by disaster. This aid flows through a humanitarian system that consists of governments, different United Nations agencies, the Red Cross movement and myriad non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As scarcer resources, financial crisis and economic inter-dependencies continue to constrain humanitarian relief there is an increasing focus from donors and governments to assess the impact of humanitarian supply networks. Using commercial (‘for-profit’) supply networks as a benchmark; this paper exposes the counter-intuitive competition dynamic of humanitarian supply networks, which results in an open-loop system unable to calibrate supply with actual need and impact. In that light, the phenomenon of Big Data in the humanitarian field is discussed and an agenda for the ‘datafication’ of the supply network set out as a means of closing the loop between supply, need and impact.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC)
PublisherIEEE Xplore
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventGlobal Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC) - California, San Jose, United States
Duration: 20 Oct 201323 Oct 2013


ConferenceGlobal Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC)
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose
Internet address


  • humanitarian supply networks
  • supply chain
  • humanitarian logistics
  • datafication
  • big data

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