Blockchain in humanitarian operations management: A review of research and practice rights and content


Review of papers focusing on blockchain in humanitarian operations management (HOM).

Identification and discussion of the current state-of-the-art research and practical deployments of blockchain in HOM.

Classification of the literature based on characteristics that align with challenges in HOM.

Identification and discussion of future research directions.


Humanitarian operations management (HOM) defines the broad domain that deals with the management of crisis events and human suffering, and a plethora of research has contributed to this field. Over the recent years, blockchain technology has been signaled throughout the literature as a tool that can support HOM as a result of the technology's enhanced features such as security and auditability. In a bid to explore the application of blockchain technology in HOM, we systematically review the current literature and deployed practices. Our review covers 64 articles that provide contributions which we categorize into four focus areas: (i) overview of blockchain in HOM, (ii) identity and personal data management, (iii) humanitarian logistics, and (iv) humanitarian communications. The majority of the articles that we surveyed focus on the potential benefits of blockchain in HOM, and the enablers and barriers to its adoption. A limited number of theoretical frameworks provide insights into how blockchain can be utilized in HOM to improve operational efficiency, promote trust, and foster collaborations among relief agencies. With the exception of a few pilot programs that have been deployed in the humanitarian setting, we find that the majority of the work addressing the use of blockchain in HOM has not yet been tested in the field, and therefore, little empirical evidence exists to prove blockchain's capabilities in HOM. This paper reports on the major scientific advancements and practical applications for blockchain technology in HOM, as well as promising future research directions on the use of blockchain technology for HOM practitioners and researchers.


Disaster management
Humanitarian aid
Distributed ledger technology
Humanitarian logistics
Data management

Kyle Hunt, Mr. Hunt is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University at Buffalo, focusing his studies in operations research. He is also a U.S. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (NSF GRF). His primary research focuses in the areas of homeland security and humanitarian operations. He is especially interested in developing models that can provide practical insights or be readily adopted by stakeholders throughout government and industry.

Adithya Narayanan, Mr. Narayanan completed his M.S. in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University at Buffalo. His research interests are in emerging technologies and data-driven decision support models.

Jun Zhuang, Ph.D. Dr. Zhuang is the Morton C. Frank Professor and Director of the Decision, Risk & Data Laboratory, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, at the University at Buffalo. He earned his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His long-term research goal is to integrate operations research, big data analytics, game theory, and decision analysis to improve mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery for natural and manmade disasters.

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