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Technology Innovation and Big Data for Humanitarian Operations

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Guest Editor: Dr Tina Comes, University of Agder. Email:

Technology Innovation; advances in information and communications technologies (ICT) and increasingly mobile ways of living have inspired new fields, advancing practice and research. Progress in engineering promises connectivity, broader bandwidth and unknown computational power to all. Through ICT, citizens worldwide tap into the knowledge of their peers and a global network of experts or volunteers. 

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, orders and shipment logistics can today be complemented by social media feeds, text messaging systems and analyses of customer buying patterns. Technology driven data sources such as Global Positioning Systems (GPSs), Radio Frequency based Identification (RFID) tracking, remote sensing, the use of satellite imagery or drones enable real-time massive real-time monitoring. Biometric identification technologies are increasingly used as tools for refugee management. Relief provision is beginning to shift towards virtual distributions through digital payment systems, or “mobile money”. But the bigger the data, the more challenging it becomes to manage and analyse them: information stems from heterogeneous sources and actors, the implications of a decision need to be assessed across organizations and actors, and time and capacity to make decisions are limited.
To benefit from the technology innovation, humanitarian organizations need to adapt their infrastructures, information systems, workflows, decision processes and policies. Three major trends have emerged in this context:
1. Participatory and community based approaches, emphasising novel possibilities of engagement and empowering local communities [1,2]
2. Virtual collaboration in a large network of experts and volunteers [3–5] and along with these efforts, an increasing centralised coordination and remote control at headquarter levels, particularly when access to the affected areas is risky [6,7]
3. Increasing automation and dominance of technology-driven approaches, at least partially owned by private companies with unclear implications for the adherence to the humanitarian principles of humanity and neutrality [8]

With the increasing hunger for data and technology innovations, also concerns about data protection and privacy have become more prominent, and technologies and policies for their use need to address protection concerns. This is particularly true in conflict situations and complex emergencies, when collecting and sharing data can cause serious harm.
This special issue (SI) is dedicated to publishing original research and insights from practice that deals with the technology innovation and big data in humanitarian operations. Papers on humanitarian operations methods based on theoretical concepts, models and simulations, case studies and empirical work, insights from practice and critical reflections on the use of technology are welcome. Submissions of real-world case studies that emphasize implications for humanitarian practice are strongly encouraged. We also invite interdisciplinary contributions bringing together insights from technology and management. 

Topics suitable for this SI include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Big data based simulation and optimization of supply chains and distribution logistics
• Logistics and protection based on sensing and tracking technology
• Humanitarian Logistics information systems
• Coordination
• Technology and policies for sensemaking and decision support in humanitarian operations
• Knowledge Management and Learning systems;
• Semantic Web and Linked Open Data;
• Integration and Interoperability;
• Internet of Things and Internet of Services;
• Performance Measurement (KPIs, Indicator Models) and real-time monitoring
• Technology innovation in humanitarian settings
• Data protection and privacy
• Critical reflections and reviews from practice

Manuscript Preparation and Submission
To prepare manuscripts, authors are asked to closely follow the author guidelines. All submissions to the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management are to be made via Scholar One. When submitting their manuscripts authors should indicate that their papers are intended for the special issue by selecting this option from the drop down menu. Manuscripts will be refereed according to the standards of the JHLSCM. Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Publication Schedule
Submission Deadline:   June 1st, 2016
Notification of Review Results:  August 1st, 2016
Revised Manuscript Due:  September 15th, 2016
Final Decision:    October 1st, 2016

[1] Palen L, Anderson KM, Mark G, Martin J, Sicker D, Palmer M, et al. A vision for technology-mediated support for public participation & assistance in mass emergencies & disasters 2010:8.
[2] Alexander D. Globalisation of Disasters: Trends, Problems and Dilemmas. J Int Aff 2006;59:1–22.
[3] Crowley J, Chan J. Disaster Relief 2.0: The future of information sharing in humanitarian emergencies. Washington D.C.: HHI; 2010.
[4] Meier P. Next generation humanitarian computing. Proc. 17th ACM Conf. Comput. Support. Coop. Work Soc. Comput. - CSCW ’14, New York: ACM Press; 2014, p. 1573–1573.
[5] Comes T, Vybornova O, Van de Walle B. Bringing Structure to the Disaster Data Typhoon : An Analysis of Decision-Makers ’ Information Needs in the Response to Haiyan. 2015 AAAI Spring Symp., 2015, p. 7–11.
[6] Quaritsch M, Kruggl K, Wischounig-Strucl D, Bhattacharya S, Shah M, Rinner B. Networked UAVs as aerial sensor network for disaster management applications. E I Elektrotechnik Und Informationstechnik 2010;127:56–63.
[7] Van de Walle B, Comes T. On the Nature of Information Management in Complex and Natural Disasters. Humanit Technol Sci Syst Glob Impact 2015;107:403–11.
[8] Sandvik KB, Gabrielsen Jumbert M, Karlsrud J, Kaufmann M. Humanitarian technology: a critical research agenda. Int Rev Red Cross 2014;96:219–42.