Report: chatbots in humanitarian contexts 

Olivia Johnson
Barbara Paes
Laura Guzman

We’ve published published a new research report: Chatbots in humanitarian contexts.

Since the mid 2010s, chatbots and automated tools have grown in usage and popularity across the humanitarian sector; there has, however, been little published on collective successes, risks and trade-offs. 

From October 2022–February 2023 we explored the tradeoffs, risks and potential benefits of chatbot use in humanitarian contexts, with support from the IFRC and Global Disaster Preparedness Centre. 

The report looks at the types of chatbots that have been used by humanitarian and civil society organisations, the rationales for their introduction, and the implementation challenges faced. 

It includes a set of considerations to guide chatbot design and to help organisations assess whether or not a chatbot is an appropriate tool for their specific programmatic needs and for the needs of the communities they aim to serve. 

Findings and recommendations 

Our findings indicate a need for organisations to proceed with caution when considering implementing chatbots in a humanitarian context. 

In our research, we came across a number of cases where implementation and efficacy were stymied by contextual challenges; we also saw that the amount of work required to effectively incorporate chatbot technology can be significant, and requires considering data privacy best practices, user expectations, cultural and situational contexts, maintenance costs and staffing, and the continued need for human interaction. 

You can read more about our learnings on our blog, and we also recommend exploring Chayn’s report on their chatbot implementation for a close-up look at the significant challenges facing responsible and effective chatbot use.

We hope this report, and the work of others, sparks continued research and conversation over the role of automated tools in humanitarian contexts and ethical design practices.  

Get in touch

Our research partnerships provide practical evidence and recommendations to help organisations understand some of the complexities involved in using data and technology in ways that promote social justice. A research consultancy can start with a question! Feel free to email us at and we can schedule a call to explore your ideas further.


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