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Challenges of using big data for humanitarian relief: lessons from the literature

Pankaj Sharma (Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Management, National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Ashutosh Joshi (Gujarat Technological University, Ahmedabad, India)

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 2042-6747

Article publication date: 17 June 2019

Issue publication date: 2 December 2020




Big data analytics has emerged as one of the most used keywords in the digital world. The hype surrounding the buzz has led everyone to believe that big data analytics is the panacea for all evils. As the insights into this new field are growing and the world is discovering novel ways to apply big data, the need for caution has become increasingly important. The purpose of this paper is to conduct a literature review in the field of big data application for humanitarian relief and highlight the challenges of using big data for humanitarian relief missions.


This paper conducts a review of the literature of the application of big data in disaster relief operations. The methodology of literature review adopted in the paper was proposed by Mayring (2004) and is conducted in four steps, namely, material collection, descriptive analysis, category selection and material evaluation.


This paper summarizes the challenges that can affect the humanitarian logistical missions in case of over dependence on the big data tools. The paper emphasizes the need to exercise caution in applying digital humanitarianism for relief operations.


Most published research is focused on the benefits of big data describing the ways it will change the humanitarian relief horizon. This is an original paper that puts together the wisdom of the numerous published works about the negative effects of big data in humanitarian missions.



Sharma, P. and Joshi, A. (2020), "Challenges of using big data for humanitarian relief: lessons from the literature", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 423-446.



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