In recent years, mounting discussion within the international community about whether Internet access should be seen as a human right has led to new efforts on the part of humanitarian organizations to provide connectivity to refugees and others displaced by conflict as part of their relief work in what is becoming known as “connectivity as aid”. This has meant that humanitarian organizations are increasingly involved in Internet governance, sometimes even for the first time. As managers of newly established Internet networks, they are faced with decisions that are more frequently the purview of governments and private sector internet providers, decisions as innocuous as what amount of bandwidth to allow in a refugee camp all the way to whether or not to prohibit access to certain kinds of content.
This talk uses cases of connectivity as aid to illustrate the challenges faced in providing Internet access in these unique and uniquely fragile contexts. It then explores how insight from academia, particularly socio-legal scholarship, can be mobilized to help humanitarian organizations grapple with managing Internet networks in a way that prioritizes both the liberties and the safety of those they are tasked with protecting.