Tag Archives: HOTOSM

Crowdsource Volunteers are HOT HOT HOT!

The earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti on a Tuesday afternoon in January 2010, forever changed the way that emergency responders use crowdsource mapping to provide need-based aid.

HOT volunteers writing OSM manual in Kreyòl

HOT volunteers writing OSM manual in Kreyòl

According to a U.S. News Editorial about crowdsourcing in various disaster affected communities, volunteers from all over the world began collecting data information from several sources coming out of Haiti, including SMS, Twitter, and news websites. With enough specific geographic information, these sources were used by volunteers to annotate a live map on OpenStreetMaps (OSM) to aid emergency responders on the ground in Haiti. We have been using OSM in class this week, and the sheer pace that these volunteers traced roads for 24 hours a day remotely from the disaster point was nothing short of amazing. These annotated OSM maps were vital to the success of the U.S. State Department’s SMS relief program’s short code 4636. Texting 4636,“INFO,” meant that anyone within the Digicel mobile network  in Haiti could text “I need water” or “I need medical help” and their location, and these messages were routed to aid organizations and emergency responders like Red Cross on the ground for free. The maps that the volunteers filled in on OSM were essential to NGO emergency responder’s execution of relief aid to any area requested.

The success of this collaboration spurred the formation of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). HOT workers gather base data on disaster-prone regions remotely and on the ground from available satellite imagery to improve disaster preparedness in that region. Some HOTOSM (HOT + OSM = HOTOSM) project sites include Somalia, Cote D’Ivoire, Mongolia, and Indonesia. From my nerdy interest in plate tectonics, I know that Somalia and Indonesia are their own plate boundaries, which make them prone to earthquakes and volcanoes. But after researching their disaster statistics on PreventionWeb (a detailed disaster reduction resource), I learned that more deaths occur in Somalia from floods and epidemics than from earthquakes. I can now understand how the unique disaster-development challenges in each region motivates volunteers to negotiate access to imagery and trace roads for hours on end, like we are doing in Nepal and like HOT volunteers doing in Somalia. Just for our own motivation for the our HOTOSM project, I researched the disaster statistics in Nepal. The most common disasters that affect and kill people are storms and floods. But wildfires bare most of the economic burden to Nepalese development.

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ICT4D; Most Important Lessons Learned

When first learning about International Development I had no idea what aid truly meant. Originally I believed that throwing governmental money towards development projects in some of the poorest countries would further help them tackle the main problems associated with poverty. However, this is false, money isn’t the solution to all of the problems. Prior to taking the ICT4D course I had never truly thought about technology as an enabler to development. The world we live in, especially in developed countries, has continuously evolved with an increasing amount of new innovative technologies and software being introduced daily. I had never realized that as technology develops in the western world it could further help develop the developing countries. There are a variety of lessons I learned that would remain relevant to a development professional and mind track but there are a few that powerfully stood out to me.

First off learning what ICTs were in the first place was a new topic. Information and Communication Technologies involve a large amount of tools from your basic radios and computers to Open Street Mapping and GIS technologies.  Looking at the target population’s basic needs and desires should be the start of all development projects. Similarly to all development initiatives the target population being addressed is the most important factor of a project. In this class we looked at the Human Centered Design, which discusses the purpose of focusing on the needs of the people.  If a development team is attempting to start an ICT based project in a small rural village in Eastern Kenya, it is important to evaluate all risks and factors such as access to technology, access to infrastructure such as electrical outlets, as well as access to Internet and other broad-bands. This notion of understanding what is already present and available to a project is what I grasped as being the most important. Not having Internet and electricity are just a few of the challenges and obstacles that development professionals face when trying to involve ICTs with development projects.

Secondly learning about development by different sectors was definitely a new approach I had yet to study. I had never split up education and health and business and economy versus government but looking at different ways and usages of ICTs individually in different sectors and talking about the “front- office usage” and “back- office usage” was definitely very intriguing. I think if I were to pursue a development profession I myself would focus on two sectors, Economy and Education because as my own personal belief I do believe that education is where approaches to development should begin. Thirdly, the project we were assigned on HOTOSM, JOSM, and Open Street Map in collaboration with the Red Cross might have been one of the most valuable skills I have learnt all year. Not only did I get to practice first hand ICT usage but I also got to witness and experience how emergency and disaster relief professionals work with the community to help prevent and improve disaster aid and relief. This project not only gave me hands- on marketable experience but also allowed me to learn how to trace and use such software.

Other interesting topics discussed were the various case studies we learned about. However one in particular that related to my sector; education, was One Laptop Per Child. One part I found interesting was how they adopted this strategy and it’s success and challenges. As well, when Wayan Vota came to as a guess speaker and he discussed it he said it wasn’t a very successful project in the end. Seeing such cases where technology was introduced but the success wasn’t as visualized really demonstrates the challenges that await development professionals especially those in the field of ICTs. It was also very interesting to see how big of an effect ICTs have on disaster aid. I definitely think that this is an area that is very influential to overall development challenges.

For my own personal advantage I definitely think learning how to use JOSM, tweeting, and creating weekly blog posts has allowed me to become more ICT efficient. It has also changed my point of view on social media as I now follow more resourceful and influential people on twitter, and I now have created my own blog as well as created a LinkedIn profile as advised by the guest speaker. I believe I now have a more Human centered approach and that ICTs have made a permanent mark on my ideas and perspectives about development.  Nonetheless, although I learned a great amount of new information I wish we had discussed more unsuccessful projects that may help us as future professionals. Learning about the failed attempts to introduce ICTs in the developing world could be very beneficial to individuals like me who seek to create a project in the future. However, overall bringing the right ICT tool to the right population is the principal point I gathered from the lessons.