Humanitarian Geospatial Technologies Workshop

 Course Dates
The virtual Humanitarian Geospatial Technologies Workshop was held in January of 2021. Sign up for the course interest list to be notified of future iterations of this workshop.

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The Humanitarian Geospatial Technology Workshop course will introduce participants to spatial technologies and spatial analytical methods currently and potentially used in the humanitarian and disaster-response sectors. This course is led by the Signal Program on Human Security & Technology and the Humanitarian Geoanalytics Research & Education Program at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Through a combination of synchronous lectures, discussions, and an online forum, students will be able to explore and envision how critical geographies, data ethics, and geospatial technologies can improve humanitarian research, preparedness, and response. Participants will be able to learn from and engage with course faculty who are experienced in geospatial analysis and spatial epidemiology and have extensive expertise in analyzing satellite imagery in diverse humanitarian emergencies.

This course will not teach the technical use of GIS or remote sensing, but will introduce tools, concepts, and techniques used in geospatial analysis, and will support students’ independent use of whichever tools are familiar to them.

Course Objectives

  • Identify the spatial tools and methodologies that are currently being utilized within humanitarian, human rights and disaster research, prevention, and response;
  • Reflect on existing power structures of data, diversity of narratives, and digital colonialism as it affects the humanitarian space;
  • Critically review the limitations, ethics, and challenges of spatial data and methods in the humanitarian sector;
  • Learn the subjectivity of the visualization of spatial data and ways to clearly communicate outcomes; and
  • Understand how spatial technologies can be leveraged to explore and address diverse thematic areas relevant to the humanitarian sector in novel ways.

In-Class Project

Participants should come to the workshop with a mixed methods evaluation project idea. Think about the following prior to the workshop: working title, problem, data collection involving quantitative and qualitative data, and the potential significance of the project. During the workshop, participants will choose ideas and work on them in groups as concepts are introduced, with a final presentation at the end.

Select Topics covered in the course:
  • Critical geography and power structures within spatial technologies
  • Standards and ethics of geospatial technology in humanitarian assistance
  • Introduction to GIS and spatial analytics
  • Introduction to satellite imagery analysis
  • Case studies in satellite imagery analysis, GIS, and spatial statistics

Intended Audience

The intended audience for this workshop includes NGO and UN workers, national and local government, journalists, and others involved in humanitarian response and operations. Individuals interested in exploring the intersection of technology and the humanitarian sector are also welcome to participate in the course.

Please note that this workshop will be conducted in English.

Policies and Frequently Asked Questions

For more information and answers to your questions, including payment and cancellation policies, please see a page of frequently asked questions and policies for the course.

Contact Us

All questions, cancellations, and deferment requests should be submitted to: