Media and Publications

Local Aid Workers in the Digital Humanitarian Project: Between ‘Second Class Citizens’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Survivors’

Jonathan Corpus Ong
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Pamela G. Combinido
De La Salle University


This paper is an inquiry into the experiences of Filipino technology workers in the Haiyan response and their aspirations for professional and personal mobility within the expansive space of the global aid agencies that offered them temporary employment. Moving beyond the usual figure of the cosmopolitan and adventure-seeking Western humanitarian acting on distant suffering, we discuss how local techie aid workers act are “entrepreneurial survivors” who engage in creatively rewarding yet precarious project-based work while they personally cope with the social and economic impact of a disaster that hit close to home. Drawing from interviews and participant observation with 20 tech workers, we discuss how racial differences and intra-organizational hierarchies compromise the implementation of the digital humanitarian project, ultimately failing on its ambition to empower local communities by first and foremost overlooking the plight of the local worker.

Ong, Jonathan Corpus and Pamela Combinido. (2017). “Local Aid Workers as ‘Entrepreneurial Survivors’: Aspiring for Mobility in the Digital Humanitarian Project.” Critical Asian Studies.


Photo by IOM/Alan Motus

More Stories

The Network
The Newton Tech4Dev Network research team is led by Dr. Jonathan Corpus Ong, Prof. Peter Lunt, and Prof. Julio C. Teehankee.