Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
If all you have is a Hammer, How Useful is Humanitarian Crowdsourcing?

If all you have is a Hammer, How Useful is Humanitarian Crowdsourcing?

Ratings: (0)|Views: 361|Likes:
Published by Crowdsourcing.org

More info:

Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Oct 26, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

02/03/2013

IfallYouHaveisaHammer–HowUsefulisHumanitarian
Crowdsourcing?
Inthisarticle,guestcontributorPaulCurrionlooksatthepotentialforcrowdsourcing
dataduringlarge-scalehumanitarianemergencies,aspartofour"Deconstructing
Mobile"series.PaulisanaidworkerwhohasbeenworkingontheuseofICTsinlarge-
scaleemergenciesforthelast10years.Heaskswhethercrowdsourcingadds
significantvaluetorespondingtohumanitarianemergencies,arguingthatmerely
increasingthequantityofinformationinthewakeofalarge-scaleemergencymaybe
counterproductive.Instead,thehumanitariancommunityneedsclearlydefined
informationthatcanhelpinmakingcriticaldecisionsinmountingtheirprogrammes
inordertosavelivesandrestorelivelihoods.Bytakingacloselookatthedata
collectedviaUshahidiinthewakeoftheHaitiearthquake,heconcludesthat
crowdsourceddatafromaffectedcommunitiesmaynotbeusefulforsupportingthe
responsetoalarge-scaledisaster.
1.TheRiseofCrowdsourcinginEmergencies
Ushahidi,thesoftwareplatformformappingincidentssubmittedbythecrowdvia
SMS,email,Twitterortheweb,hasgeneratedsomanycolumninchesofnews
coveragethattheaveragepersoncouldbemistakenforthinkingthatitnowplaysa
centralroleincoordinatingcrisisresponsesaroundtheglobe.Atleastthisiswhat
somearticlessay,suchasTechnologyReview'sprofileofDavidKobia,Directorof
TechnologyDevelopmentforUshahidi.Formostpeople,bothinsideandoutsidethe
sector,wholacktheexpertisetodiganydeeper,columninchestranslateinto
credibility.Ifeverybody'stalkingaboutUshahidi,itmustbedoingagreatjob–
right?
Maybe.
Ushahidiistheresultofthreeimportanttrends:
1. Increasedavailabilityandutilityofspatialdata;
2. Rapidgrowthofcommunicationinfrastructure,particularlymobile
telephony;and
3. ConvergenceofnetworksbasedonthatinfrastructureonInternetaccess.
Giventhosetrends,projectslikeUshahidimaybeinevitableratherthanunexpected,
butinevitabilitydoesn'tgiveusanyindicationofhoweffectivetheseprojectsare.
Bigclaimsaremadeaboutthewayinwhichcrowdsourcingischangingthewayin
whichbusinessisdoneinothersectors,andnowattentionhasturnedtothe
humanitariansector.JohnDellaVolpe'sshortarticleintheHuffingtonPostisan
exampleofsuchclaims:
"IfahandfulofsocialentrepreneursfromKenyacouldcreateanopen-source
"socialmapping"platformthatsuccessfullytracksandshedslighton
violenceinKenya,earthquakeresponseinChileandHaiti,andtheoilspillin
theGulf--whatelsecanweuseitfor?"
Thekeywordinthatsentenceis“successfully”.Thereisn’tanyevidencethat
Ushahidi“successfully”carriedoutthesefunctionsinthesesituations;onlythatan
instanceoftheUshahidiplatformwassetup.Thisisanextremelylowbartoclearto
achieve“success”,likeclaimingthatanewbusinesswassuccessfulbecauseithad
setupawebsite.Therehaslatelybeenanunfoundedbeliefthatthetransformative
effectsofthelatesttechnologyarepositivelyinevitableandinevitablypositive,
simplybyvirtueofthistechnology’sexistence.
2.WhatdoesSuccessfulCrowdsourcingLookLike?
Tobefair,it'shardtoknowwhatwouldconstitute“success”forcrowdsourcingin
emergencies.InthecaseofUshahidi,wecouldlookathowmanyreportsareposted
onanygiveninstance–butthatrecordisdisappointing,andthenumberof
submissionsforeachUshahidiinstanceisexceedinglysmallincomparisontothe
sizeoftheaffectedpopulation–includingHaiti,whereUshahidireceivedthemost
publicpraiseforitscontribution.
Inanycase,thenumberofreportspostedisnotinitselfausefulmeasureofimpact,
sincethosereportsmightconsistofrecycledUNsituationreportsandlinkstothe
WashingtonPost's“YourEarthquakePhotos”feature.Whatweneedtoknowis
whethertheservicehadasignificantpositiveimpactinhelpingcommunities
affectedbydisaster.Thisisdifficulttomeasure,evenforexperiencedaidagencies
whoseworkprovidesdirecthelp.Perhapsthebestwecandoisaskasimple
question:ifthesystemworkedexactlyaspromised,whataddedvaluewouldit
deliver?
AsPatrickMeier,adoctoralstudentandDirectorofCrisisMappingandStrategic
PartnershipsforUshahidihasexplained,crowdsourcingwouldneverbetheonly
toolinthehumanitarianinformationtoolbox.That,ofcourse,iscorrectandthereis
nodoubtthatcrowdsourcingisusefulforsomeactivities–butishumanitarian
responseoneofthoseactivities?
Akeyquestiontoaskiswhethertechnologycanimproveinformationflowin
humanitarianresponse.Theansweristhatitabsolutelycan,andthat'sexactlywhat
manypeople,includingthisauthor,havebeenworkingonforthelast10years.
However,itisafallacytothinkthatifthequantityofinformationincreases,the
qualityofinformationincreasesaswell.Thisisprettyobviouslyfalse,and,infact,
thereversemightbetrue.
Fromanaidworker’sperspective,ourbandwidthisextremelylimited,bothliterally
andmetaphorically.Thoseworkinginemergencyresponse–officialorunofficial,
paidorunpaid,community-basedorinstitution-based,governmentalornon-
governmental–don'tneedmoreinformation,theyneedbetterinformation.
Specifically,theyneedclearlydefinedinformationwhichcanhelpthemtomake
criticaldecisionsinmountingtheirprogrammesinordertosavelivesandrestore
livelihoods.
Iwasn'tinvolvedwiththeHaitiresponse,whichmademethinkthatperhapsmy
doubtsaboutUshahidiwereunfoundedandthatperhapsthedatatheyhadgathered
couldbeuseful.InthecourseofdiscussionsonPatrickMeier'sblog,Isuggestedthat
thebestwayforUshahiditoshowmypositionwaswrongwouldbetopresentause
casetoshowhowcrowdsourceddatacouldbeused(asanexample)bythe
InformationManagerfortheWater,SanitationandHygieneCoordinationCluster,a
positionwhichIfilledinBangladeshandGeorgia.Twomonthslater,Idecidedtotry
thatexperimentformyself.
3.InWhichILookAtTheDataMostCarefully
TheonlycrowdsourceddataIhaveistheUshahididatasetforHaiti,butsinceHaiti
isclaimedasasuccess,thatseemedliketobeagoodplacetostart.Istartedby
downloadingandreadingthroughthedataset–thecompletelogofallreports
postedinUshahidi.Itwasamixoftwodatastreams:
Materialpublishedontheweborreceivedviaemail,suchasUNsitreps,
mediareports,andblogupdates,and
Messagessentinbythepublicviathe4636SMSshortcodeestablished
duringtheemergency.
Iwasstruckbytwoobservations:
OneoftheclaimsmadebytheUshahiditeamisthatitsworkshouldbe
consideredanadditionaldatastreamforaidworkers.However,thefirst
datastreamissimplyduplicatinginformationthataidworkersarealready
likelytoreceive.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->