Crowdsourcing emergency response Pt. 2 - Crisis Mapping and Crowdsource Response Organzations

January 2011; In the previous post, crowdsourcing was shown as a way of collecting, analyzing and disseminating information. The challenge of crunching huge amounts data in real time from various media has always presented a problem for emergency response personnel, but with crowdsourcing, information processing has become much easier, actionable and faster. Taking that information and overlaying it onto real-time mapping is the purview of crisis mapping, an emerging emergency response discipline. And there are organizations who use crisis mapping as their primary focus for humanitarian aid.

The field began to formalize in 2007 when the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative reached out to "an active community of Crisis Mappers ... HHI's Program documented best practices and lessons learned through the lens of new technologies and methodologies." More than 300 leading scholars, humanitarian practitioners, software and technology experts and policy makers were involved in the process.

Then in August 2009 Patrick Meier, co-founder of the International Network of Crisis Mappers and the Director of Crisis Mapping and Strategic Partnerships at Ushahidi set about to codify the field. Meier identified three "key pillars" which would form the underlying structure of crisis mapping. Those pillars: Crisis Map Sourcing, Crisis Mapping Analysis, and Crisis Mapping Response would then also be broken into more detailed categories to form a cohesive taxonomy. A common language was also suggested to help the larger crisis mapping community agree on terms.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Meier said he sees the new discipline as the future of disaster response. "We're going to need to collaborate, we're going to need to share data. ... The best way to provide humanitarian response is to be able to provide platforms," and tools to gather and disseminate actionable data.

Since 2008, several international projects have been created which use the open-source information and crowdsourcing technology provided by Ushahidi as a way address to a humanitarian emergency. To help respond to the flooding in Pakistan, was created as an off-shoot of the Ushahidi organization along with another project in Haiti, Additionally, the Konpa Group was from a group which "formed around the Ushahidi Haiti and Ushahihi Chile projects.