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Social Data and Geospatial Mapping Join the Crisis Response Toolset

Social Data and Geospatial Mapping Join the Crisis Response Toolset

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Jan 31, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A new web app applies trend analysis to structuredsocial media.
byAlex Howard 27 January 2011
A new online application from geospatial mapping giant ESRIapplies trend analysis to help responders to Australia's recentfloods create relevance and context from social media reporting.A screenshot of theAustralian flood trends mapis embeddedbelow:
This web app shows howcrowdsourced social intelligence provided byUshahidienablesemergency social datato be integrated into crisis response in a meaningful way.The combination of Ushahidi and ESRI in Australia shows that"formal and innovative approaches to information collection and
analysis during disasters is possible," said Patrick Meier, "andthat there is an interface that can be crafted between official andnon-official responses." Meier is a research fellow at theHarvard Humanitarian Initiative and director of crisis mappingat Ushahidi and was reached via email.The Australian flooding web app includes the ability to togglelayers from OpenStreetMap, satellite imagery, topography, andfilter by time or report type. By adding structured social data,the web app providesgeospatial information system(GIS)operators with valuable situational awareness that goes beyondstandard reporting, including the locations of property damage,roads affected, hazards, evacuations and power outages.Russ Johnson, ESRI's global director for emergency response,recently spoke with me at the ESRI federal user conference inWashington, D.C. Johnson spent 32 years as a federal employeein southern California, predominantly working in the U.S. ForestService. He was one of the pioneers who built up theFEMA incident response system,and he commanded one of the 18teams around the nation that deploy assets in the wake of floods,fires and other disasters. At ESRI, Johnson helps the companyunderstand the workflow and relevance of GIS for first-responseoperations.Our full interview is contained in the following video. Excerptsare noted below.
What happened in Australia with ESRI and Ushahidi?
"This was the first time that a major media group used Ushahidiand its media reach to crowdsource reports from the disasteraffected population," said Meier. "The combination of crowdsourced reporting with official reporting is noteworthy.And the fact that all of Ushahidi's services were used simultaneously in Queenslandis a first."Johnson hailed Ushahidi for its value as a platform for creatingmore "boundaried data" from the crisis data circulated around agiven event. When better filters have been applied to social data,tagging or filtering, there's an opportunity to add it to GIS. "Theweb app allows the user to start toggling on social media of aspecific variety and then turn on GIS to add hotspottinginformation," said Johnson. "Based upon that filter, which canbe added to the validity of certain information, you can start tosee needed resources."

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