Food Aid Technology: The Experience of a Syrian Refugee Community in Coping with Food Insecurity


Over half of Syrian refugee households in Lebanon are food insecure with some reliant on an electronic voucher system for food aid. The interplay between the digitization of food aid, within the socio-technical context of refugees, and community collaborative practices is yet to be investigated. Through design engagements and interviews with refugees and shop owners we explore the experiences of a Syrian refugee community in Lebanon using the e-voucher system. We provide insights into the socio-technical environment in which the e-voucher system is dispensing aid, refugee collaborative coping practices, the information and power asymmetries experienced and, the interplay between the e-voucher system and the collaborative practices adopted by refugees. We highlight the need for: (1) expanding refugee digital capabilities to encompass understandings of aid technologies and identifying trusted intermediaries and (2) for technologies to support in upholding humanitarian principles and mitigating power and information asymmetries. Lastly, we call for CSCW researchers and humanitarian innovators to consider how humanitarian technologies can enable refugee collaborative practices and adopt everyday security as a lens for designing aid technologies. The paper contributes to CSCW knowledge regarding the interplay between aid technologies and refugees’ socio-technical contexts and practices.

The 23rd ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing
Reem Talhouk
PhD Student (2016-2020)