Monday, April 5, 2010

Crisis Mapping, Crowd Sourcing, Ushahidi and Helping Haiti

Crisis mapping has emerged as a powerful social networking tool that helps both emergency assistance providers as well as those affected by disasters. Ushahidi is one such platform, whose design was led by the Kenyan, David Kobia. Its growing applications have attracted worldwide attention. It takes advantage of crowd sourcing in obtaining data in crisis and disaster situations.

Most recently, a group at the Tufts University Flectcher School of Law and Diplomacy, led by Patrick Meier, developed Ushahidi-Haiti to assist rescue and recovery efforts post the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010. Hundreds of students at the Fletcher School assisted in this project at its peak.

The Boston Globe has a wonderful article on the Ushahidi-Haiti initiative, led by Meier.

According to the Globe article: Aid workers quickly saw the value of Meier’s creation. “This really helped us get the aid exactly where it was needed,’’ said Craig Clarke, a civilian intelligence analyst for the Marine Corps. “What they did was beyond valuable. It was gold.’’

According to Clarke: he had no doubt that the crisis-mapping operation helped to save lives and get crucial aid to thousands of Haitians in the weeks after the quake.

Ushahidi (which means "testimony" in Swahili) uses GPS data so that crisis managers and humanitarian organizations are able to locate who needs what during and post a crisis.

Now Ushahidi-Haiti is being used for the recovery and rebuilding of Haiti. I am certain that it will become an essential tool for disaster relief and humanitarian operations around the world.