Tag Archive | Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

How To Make Crowdsourcing Disaster Relief Work Better

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.

 

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People Protection Standards 1.0: Satellite Sentinel Project Team Responds to Comments

People Protection Standards 1.0: Response by the Satellite Sentinel Project Team at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to Recent Comments Concerning the Global Brief Article Entitled: Crisis Mapping Needs an Ethical Compass

by Satellite Sentinel Project Team, February 2012

When Raymond, Howarth, and Hutson wrote our argument for the development of comprehensive ethical and technical standards for the crisis mapping community, we were aware of last year’s meeting hosted by World Vision in Geneva and the 2010 meeting in Phnom Penh hosted by Oxfam Australia on Early Warning for Protection. … These efforts are laudable, much needed, and constructive. They are also by themselves insufficient to address the challenges that our field and those we seek to assist face as a result of the work we all do. While important initial steps, the meetings, protocols, and blog posts regarding these issues do not create a comprehensive code of ethics and technical standards by themselves. The issue is not whether there have been meetings or working groups. The issue is whether the crisis mapping community will decide to self-regulate in a proactive way before serious lapses by any of us put civilians in jeopardy. …

For full text of the article on this important topic, visit Satellite Sentinel Project.

Ethics, CrisisMapping, and Data Protection Standards 2.0

By Anahi, Stand By Task Force, February 14, 2012

As noted in Patrick Meier’s blog post on “Crowdsourcing, Crisis Mapping and Data Protection Standards”, humanitarian organizations have yet to develop and publicize data protection protocols for social media, crowdsourcing and volunteer geographical information. This is why, in November 2011, the Standby Task Force (SBTF) actively participated in an important workshop to discuss these challenges. The workshop was organized and sponsored by World Vision (WV) and deliberately scheduled around the 2011 Crisis Mappers Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. This was quite possibly one of the most important meeting that we (as the SBTF) participated in all of 2011. For the first time, we had a dedicated space to share our challenges and questions with data protection experts. Participants included representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Care International, Oxfam GB, UN OCHA, UN Foundation, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and obviously WV. …

For full text of the article, visit Data Protection Standards 2.0.

Stranger than Fiction: A Few Words About An Ethical Compass for Crisis Mapping

by Patrick Meier, iRevolution, February 12, 2012

The good people at the Sudan Sentinel Project (SSP), housed at my former “alma matter,” the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), have recently written this curious piece on crisis mapping and the need for an “ethical compass” in this new field. They made absolutely sure that I’d read the piece by directly messaging me via the @CrisisMappers twitter feed. Not to worry, good people, I read your masterpiece. Interestingly enough, it was published the day after my blog post reviewing IOM’s data protection standards. …

For full text of the article, visit Stranger than Fiction: A Few Words About An Ethical Compass for Crisis Mapping | iRevolution.

LIBYA: How online mapping helped crisis response

by IRIN news, a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, May 12, 2011

NAIROBI, 12 May 2011 (IRIN) – Soon after the Libyan crisis broke, decision-makers and humanitarian workers faced a critical challenge: lack of information about events inside the country. Within hours, Andrej Verity, information management officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva, called a meeting with volunteer-based and/or technically focused groups. OCHA activated the Standby task force, comprising more than 150 volunteers skilled in online crisis mapping. The idea was to map out social and traditional media reports from within Libya. That led to the creation of LibyaCrisisMap.net. …

For full text of the article, visit IRIN Middle East | LIBYA: How online mapping helped crisis response | Libya | Conflict | Economy | Governance | Refugees/IDPs | Security | Urban Risk.

In Relief Work, Online Mapping Yet to Attain Full Potential

By Steve Lohr, NYT, March 28, 2011

…a new report says that the potential of online mapping to transform humanitarian services will not be realized without better coordination and communication between digital volunteers and veteran agencies in the relief field, like the United Nations and the Red Cross. The report, “Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies,” is a collaboration of four groups — the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Vodafone Foundation and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. It will be presented Monday at an international aid and development meeting in Dubai.

For full text of the article, visit In Relief Work, Online Mapping Yet to Attain Full Potential – NYTimes.com.

Monitoring Conflict with the Satellite Sentinel Project

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Image via Wikipedia

South Sudan satellite monitoring in near real-time:

About the Satellite Sentinel Project — initiated by George Clooney — combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker technology to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan. The project provides an early warning system to deter mass atrocities by focusing world attention and generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns.

This project is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between Not On Our Watch, Google, the Enough Project, the United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Trellon, LLC.

The project works like this: Commercial satellites passing over the border of northern and southern Sudan are able to capture possible threats to civilians, observe the movement of displaced people, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence.

UNOSAT leads the collection and analysis of the images and collaborates with Google and Trellon to design the web platform for the public to easily access the images and reports. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides system-wide research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the satellite imagery. The Enough Project contributes field reports, provides policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch, puts pressure on policymakers by urging the public to act.

The Satellite Sentinel Project marks the first sustained, public effort to systematically monitor and report on potential hotspots and threats to security along a border, in near real-time (within 24-36 hours), with the aim of heading off humanitarian disaster and human rights crimes before they occur.

The Satellite Sentinel Project Website: http://www.satsentinel.org/

Some things to consider:

  • Protecting Indigenous People’s Privacy from Eyes in the Sky by Wayne Madsen (1994) “… The United States, as one of the two most advanced remote sensing nations in the world, bears a special responsibility to prevent remote sensing data from being used for purposes of exploitation and violations of human rights. The other major remote sensing nation is France. It, too, has demonstrated a willingness to permit the abuse of remote sensing data as it affects indigenous peoples. In 1994, France announced that it had captured the international terrorist “Carlos the Jackal” in Khartoum, Sudan. This feat ironically involved the trading of French imagery intelligence to the Sudanese, a trade which ultimately resulted in more Sudanese “state terrorism” against the black African minority in the south of the country. The southern Sudanese believed that the north wanted to drain their swamps by building the Jonglei Canal which would increase the flow of water through the White Nile. One southern Sudanese, Dr. John Garang, wrote his doctoral thesis on the negative environmental impact of the Jonglei Canal. In 1985 the southern Sudanese revolted against the north and demanded independence (Moszynski, July 1, 1994, 25). The Sudanese wanted an end to the revolt. They agreed to hand over Carlos to the French in return for high-grade French SPOT imagery photographs of the positions of southern Sudan guerilla forces. Using the satellite imagery provided by the French and analyzed by Iraqi imagery analysts, the Sudanese launched a massive ground and air offensive against the southerners including a faction led by Dr. John Garang, native environmentalist turned leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). British MP Tony Worthington was one of a few Western politicians who expressed his outrage, saying “Obviously we can understand that the French were keen to capture Carlos, but does it have to be at the expense of the Sudanese people who have been brutally murdered by the appalling regime in Khartoum whom the French have assisted by providing military intelligence to help the slaughter?” (Moszynski, Oct. 1994, 32). …”

 

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