During class, we discussed the 4636 project used during the aftermath of the earthquake disaster in Haiti. Crowdsourcing coupled with the innovative software developed by Ushahidi provided valuable information during the recovery period. Those on the ground who texted to the number 4636 were able to report emergencies, communicate information valuable to rescuers and request resources from aid workers. This information was uploaded to a crowdmap after being translated into English. While this program was not directly involved with or responsible for rescue and aid work on the ground, it allowed aid workers access to valuable information and brought in an entire network on distant volunteers. What happened with 4636 in Haiti taught us the serious potential of crowdsourcing in disaster relief and soon the same techniques were being applied abroad.
These lessons were applied the next year on the other side of the world. On March 11, two hours after Japan was hit by a devastating tsunami, American students created a Japan Crowdmap and during just the first few days after the event, over 3000 people had uploaded geo-located data to the map. Rescue workers were able to access the infomation and help where they were most needed. Videos taken of the tsunami by ordinary Japanese citizens on their phones were sent in to news agencies and later analyzed by scientists to learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis. Later, during the nuclear scare, crowdsourcing was used amidst the panic and rumors to collect hard data and measure radiation. Information could be sent to the newly launched website RDTN.org by anyone with a Geiger counter or other data to aid in the cleanup.
It seems that crowdsourcing was extremely valuable and aided in quick recovery for the Japanese. Japan however had an advantage over Haiti and other developing countries. In Japan, infrastructure was already in place to deal with this kind of disaster so pleas for help could be more easily answered. Also, Japan does not have the obstacle of extreme poverty that is present in Haiti. It seems safe to say though that this technology has application in both the developed and developing world for disaster relief.