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Tuesday, July 12 • 14:46 - 16:35
Tracing Networks of Influence: Digital Innovations in the Crisis Response to the 2015 Nepal Earthquakes

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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Contributor: Heather McIntosh, Canada's International Development Research Centre / The University of Ottawa

The 2015 Nepal earthquakes (NE) began with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which hit the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, and its surrounding areas on April 25, 2015. On May 12, 2015 a second major earthquake (of a 7.3 magnitude) struck to the northeast of Kathmandu, affecting various areas in Nepal and regions in Southern China. In the following weeks, continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal with short intervals separating them. The earthquakes killed more than 8,000 people, injured more than 23,000, and it is currently estimated that 2.8 million people require humanitarian assistance as a result of being harmed or displaced because of the disaster (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, 2015). The 2015 NE attracted global attention, and aid organizations from around the world mobilized to help. Yet, given that Nepal is a developing and largely rural country, its ability to respond to and manage such a large-scale crisis was limited. Despite such challenges, some indicate that ICTs were used to facilitate crisis management and response (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, 2015). Being that ICTs continue to play an increasingly important role in disasters (Burns, 2015), this study seeks to better understand the role of ICTs in the 2015 NE crisis management to potentially inform future uses of ICTs in similar scenarios.

This study strives to contribute to an emerging field of research on the use of ICTs in crisis scenarios through a new case study on the 2015 NE. To do so, this study will gather information from those who leveraged ICTs to facilitate crisis management and response to understand the role of these tools in this specific case. The study is guided by the following research questions:

  1. How and in what circumstances can ICTs play an effective role in improving disaster response?

a)     How and by whom were ICTs used in the crisis management and response to the 2015 NE?

b)     How did these uses influence the delivery of aid and humanitarian support in the 2015 NE?

c)     What challenges and/or risks were involved in the use of ICTs in the 2015 NE crisis response?

d)     What were the perceived benefits of the use of ICTs in the 2016 NE crisis response?

e)     What are the implications of access to and use of ICTs in the 2015 NE crisis response related to gender?
i. How do gender norms impact a woman’s ability to access and use ICTs in Nepal?
ii. How did gender norms with regards to women’s ability to access and use ICTs in Nepal impact their abilities during the 2015 NE crisis response?


To explore the role of ICTs in the 2015 NE, this study will use a qualitative single-case study research design (e.g., Stake, 1995; Yin, 2014). The case study used for this research will be descriptive in nature. This study will use the process-tracing method (George & Bennett, 2005) to identify the ways in which ICTs influenced crisis management and response in the 2015 NE. The process-tracing method seeks to identify the “intervening casual process—the causal chain and causal mechanisms—between an independent variable (or variables) and the outcomes of the dependent variable” (Ibid, p. 206). This method is defined as the systematic examination of diagnostic evidence selected and analyzed in light of research questions” posed by the investigator (Collier, 2011, p. 823). This method can contribute decisively to social phenomena and evaluating the unfolding of events (Checkel, 2008). It can be applied to research into ICTs and their influences on various social phenomena and activities; therefore, this type of analysis is particularly useful in exploring the influence of ICTs on response to the 2015 NE. This study will use abductive reasoning, as the study will begin with an incomplete set of observations and will seek to proceed to the likeliest possible explanation for the set (Walton, 2005).

The data collection method for this study will be qualitative semi-structured interviews with actors involved in facilitating crisis response and management through the use of ICTs. This may include actors from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government, and grassroots organizations/efforts. Semi-structured interviews are designed to explore issues in detail with the interviewee, using probes, prompts, and flexible questioning styles (Henn, Weinstein & Foard, 2006). This data collection method is selected for this study because it allows the principal investigator (PI) to pre-design questions guided by the goals of the study, but it will also allow respondents to provide information on their unique accounts and experiences.

A qualitative content analysis of the interview transcripts will be conducted. Content analysis is a “careful, detailed, systematic examination and interpretation of a particular body of material in an effort to identify patterns, themes, biases, and meanings” (Berg, 2007, p. 248). This form of analysis is used in various disciplines for a multitude of purposes; it is mainly a coding operation and data interpreting process (e.g., Mayring, 2004; Schreier, 2012). The analysis will examine both manifest and latent content found in the data to understand the surface structure of the messages as well as their deep structural meanings (Berg, 2007). Thus, the study will examine exactly what the narratives found in the text may seek to do or mean based on the ways different ideas and concepts are expressed through the language of the text (Berg, 2011). This will be achieved through coding of themes and sub-themes expressed in the transcripts (Saldaña, 2015).

Given the case study research design, the study uses purposive and snowball sampling techniques, which are both nonprobability sampling strategies.

It is hoped that the report may be particularly useful to those who work at NGOs and government organizations involved in the management of and response to crises and disasters. This research will also seek to contribute to knowledge pertaining to the ways in which ICTs can be leveraged to improve crisis response and management.


Berg, Bruce L. (2007). An introduction to content analysis. In Mahmoud Eid and Martine Legacé (Eds.), Communication research methods: Quantitative and qualitative approaches (pp. 247-284). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Berg, Bruce L. (2011). An introduction to content analysis. In Mahmoud Eid (Ed.), Research methods in communication (pp. 209-236). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Burns, Ryan. (2015). Rethinking big data in digital humanitarianism: Practices, epistemologies, and social relations. GeoJournal, 80(4), 477-490.

Checkel, Jeffrey T. (2008). Process tracing. In Audie Klotz and Deepa Prakash (Eds.), Qualitative methods in international relations (pp. 114-127). London: Palgrave McMillian UK.

Collier, David. (2011). Understanding process tracing. Political Science and Politics, 44(4), 823-830.

George, Alexander L. & Bennet, Andrew. (2005). Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Groupe Speciale Mobile Association. (2015). Disaster response – Nepal earthquake response and recovery overview. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programme/disaster-response/disaster-response-nepal-earthquake-response-and-recovery-overview/.

Henn, Matt, Weinstein, Mark & Foard, Nick. (2006). A short introduction to social research. London: Sage.

Mayring, Phillip. (2004). Qualitative content analysis. In Uwe Flick, Ernst von Kardoff, and Ines Steinke (Eds.), A companion to qualitative research (pp. 266-269). London: Sage.

Saldaña, Johnny. (2015). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles: Sage.

Schreier, Margrit. (2012). Qualitative content analysis in practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Stake, Robert E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Walton, Douglas. (2005). Abductive reasoning. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press

Yin, Robert. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. 


Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:46 - 16:35 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2

Attendees (6)