by Jennifer Chan, US News and World Report, Op-Eds, November 23, 2012
Dr. Jennifer Chan, a Public Voices fellow at the OpEd Project, is the director of Global Emergency Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and an associate faculty member of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
In the wake of Sandy’s destruction, digital volunteers mobilized again. From their homes and offices, using iPads and laptops, hundreds of volunteers crowd-sourced information and took on microtasks to help FEMA and other agencies process large swaths of information and speed humanitarian response.
For instance, in the first 48 hours after the hurricane, 381 aerial photos collected by the Civil Air Patrol were viewed by hundreds of volunteers, with the goal of quickly giving an overview of the extent of storm and flood damage. This project was called the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap MapMill project. In response to a request from FEMA, project developer Schuyler Erle volunteered to launch and lead the project. By mid-afternoon November 2nd, more than 3,000 volunteers had assessed 5,131 images, viewing them more than 12,000 times. Just a week later, more than 24,000 images had been assessed. Each view from a digital volunteer—a mother, a researcher, a friend, a colleague—helped FEMA determine the degree of damage along the eastern seaboard, assessing the condition of buildings, roads, and houses, with the aim of helping the agency in its post-disaster recovery and planning. That’s an amazing effort.
But did it actually help?
For full text of the op-ed, visit How To Make Crowdsourcing Disaster Relief Work Better – US News and World Report.
- How To Make Crowdsourcing Disaster Relief Work Better (usnews.com)
- Crowdsourcing the Evaluation of Post-Sandy Building Damage Using Aerial Imagery (irevolution.net)