Sustainable Humanitarian Technologies Forum to be held at ICRA 2018


Full-day Forum, International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 24 May 2018


Humanitarian robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence technologies will play an ever-increasing role in global development, particularly in developing economies, in the coming years sooner than one might think or be willing to admit. We are already witnessing several instantiations of such applications in established domains ranging from manufacturing and defense to emerging areas such as disaster response, firefighting, and education, to name a few (for instance, see for a listing of the projects being carried out under the auspices of the IEEE RAS Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology). The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development consists of seventeen Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) that include building resilient infrastructures for sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation (Goal 9) to strengthening and revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development (Goal 17) among others.

Adoption of emerging technologies tends to be slow in developing countries due to reasons that are usually beyond GDP rates and standard of living indices. Whilst the potential of these technologies is for the most part undeniable, the challenge lies in making them reliable, cost-effective and easily accessible for the masses by taking into account socioeconomic, cultural, environmental, and sustainability factors. Additionally, ethical, legal, and societal considerations of robotics, automation, and other emerging AI technologies are of paramount importance as the demarcation lines between individual privacy, safety, and security and those of the collective society get blurred without timely governance and regulation.

To address these concerns, the Sustainable Humanitarian Technologies Forum will take on the above issues centered on the following three themes:

  • Robotics, Automation, and AI Technologies for the benefit of humanity
  • Technology-Policy and Ethical, Legal and Societal (ELS) Aspects of Emerging Technologies
  • Global South Considerations (particularly those of developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America)

The Forum will bring together experts and thinkers from both technology and public policy domains. The format will consist of keynote addresses and regular presentations with a mini panel discussion after each thematic session covering the gamut of issues stemming not only from research, development, and deployment standpoints but also those from public perception of robotics, automation, and AI. An hour-long panel discussion will conclude the Forum with audience participation both at the conference venue and elsewhere (via Twitter and Facebook). As a record of the Forum, we intend to capture key points from speakers, salient points from the discussions, identify missing gaps and future steps, and summarize them in a post-event White Paper to formulate action items.

If you are working in the above areas and if the goals and themes of the Forum are of interest to you, we would love to hear from you! We are soliciting presentations from researchers and practitioners from industry, academia, NGOs, NPOs, regulatory, and funding agencies. Please email us a 2-page (max.) write-up of your background, experience, and what you would like to present at the Forum to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In addition, include a separate section in your submission on how your  participation/presentation would benefit the Forum. Note that you are not required to write a paper but your presentation at the Forum will be archived post-event for the benefit of the community.

Depending on the level of interest, selected presenters will be invited to write an expanded article for a special issue journal. Along with your submission, let us know if you would be interested in submitting an article to such a special issue.


Deadline for Submission of 2-page write-up: 15 February 2018 (email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Notification of Acceptance: 25 February 2018
Forum: 24 May 2018 (confirmed)

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