Humanitarian Technology

Technology is starting to play an important role in humanitarian crisis rescue efforts, as seen in Haiti and after Hurricane Katrina.  Called crowd-sourcing, it’s exciting humanitarians.  Whether trapped earthquake victims are texting for rescue help, or communities are reporting their needs and creating accurate street maps, technology is saving lives.

Pushpin in map. Haiti, Port Au-Prince. Earthquake  2010Crowd-sourcing is the combined power of mobile phones, mapping technology and social networking when it is used to enable people to access help, deliver aid, bear witness to abuses, and even hold governments and aid agencies more accountable, reports Integrated Regional Information Networks through Yahoo News.

Now crowd-sourcing is raising a few questions around validation and accuracy – with anyone being able to report in, particularly when anonymous, credibility becomes an issue.  Also, codes of conduct need to be developed so that when people ask for help they actually receive it.

people on mapAt the same time, ownership of crowd-sourcing needs to stay with the crowd.  It worked in Haiti only because of the vast, unprecedented network of volunteers providing information on site and the number of people volunteering to make sense of the information.

If you’re interested, there will be an open-to-public conference on crisis mapping in Boston October 1-3 this year.  Called ICCM 2010: Haiti and Beyond, The Crisis Mappers Net  is hosting this conference about leveraging mobile platforms, geospatial technologies, and other technologies to effectively provide early warning for rapid response to complex humanitarian emergencies.  The Conference on October 1 is public while the Annual Meeting is by invitation only.

P.S. All videos from ICCM 2009 are kindly available on their website.

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Alison Wheatley

Alison Wheatley

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