A public symposium and closed-door workshops on Humanitarian Innovation: Sustainability and Scale were organized at UC Berkeley on February 23-24 to explore how emerging technologies can be used to support humanitarian action, human rights, and social change. The program hosted by the Human Rights and Business Initiative at the Center for Responsible Business, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) brought together leading technology experts, researchers and humanitarian actors to explore the potential of innovative tools and practices in humanitarian contexts, the role of business, and how new partnerships are leading to better outcomes for millions of people affected by conflict and natural disaster around the world.

At the program, Rabi Karmacharya from OLE Nepal presented on the humanitarian response during last year’s earthquake in Nepal and highlighted innovative tools that aided in the rescue and relief operations in the aftermath of the disaster. He underlined the critical roles that local entrepreneurs and innovators could play in developing and applying innovative technologies during a humanitarian crisis. Local firms and groups have a better understanding of the ground reality and can help come up with more cost-effective and sustainable solutions during times of crisis. Large technology companies and humanitarian agencies should collaborate with local firms and institutions in developing solutions and mentor them in areas where they may be lacking.