Digital Humanitarians: How “Big Data” is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response by Patrick Meier | Always on Call | Stanford Social Innovation Review
I was reading over this review by Lucy Bernholz of Patrick Meier’s book, “Digital Humanitarianism” and winced at the paragraph I’ve cited below:
The best parts of Digital Humanitarians are those that show how humanitarian institutions, independent volunteers, and leading digital companies reinforce each other’s efforts. The tale that Meier tells is one of complementarity: Digital humanitarians are not replacing established aid organizations or government agencies. Instead, humanitarian aid has become a dynamic ecosystem that encompasses amateurs and experts, one-off participants and long-term professionals, drone operators and satellite imagery analysts. The global digital “nervous system” provides the context in which they do their work.
Why my wince? Well, sure it’s nice to have civl society cooperation. But a lot of what Meier writes on seems to be a governmental responsibility, and for a couple of reasons. One is that there is a greater chance of accountability and transparency. Yes, underfunded bureaucracies are terrible things. The solution is to fund them better, not make them worse. And I’d argue certainly not make it the responsibility of those most affected by the events demanding large scale remedies.That’s blaming the victim. But that doesn’t mean that the denizen (not everyone is a citizen) is out of the picture; it means rather that she is involved as an agent, acting on her own behalf, but not wholly liable or responsible for the work. This engaged model has worked pretty well with middle-class PTAs and schools–at least until recent paranoia has changed what schools do and are about.