ushahidi

Al Jazeera is doing some of the most innovative journalism in the world. Case in point: Somalia Speaks, the first ever large scale survey of citizen sentiment in that region, and rather than using traditional methods they are collecting data via sms text messages. 

Al Jazeera partnered with several organizations to bring the project to life. Middle Eastern classified advertisement NGO Souktel (whom Fast Company has written about before), mapping non-profit Ushahidi (ditto), enterprise crowdsourcing platform Crowdflower (…and ditto again) all contributed to the project, along with another organization called the African Diaspora Institute. Souktel managed the SMS gateway, Ushahidi provided the project’s mapping platform and assistance, and Crowdflower is assisting with offering a mechanism for crowdsourced analysis and translation of replies.

Crisis Mapping Japan

Hi, my name is Hal Seki. I am the managing director of sinsai.info. I am CEO of Georepublic Japan, and also a member of OpenStreetMap Foundation Japan. As introduced in this blog before, we have started to run the website http://sinsai.info using the Ushahidi platform to provide information about the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11. The website is mainly operated by the OpenStreetMap Foundation Japan, and supported by more than 200 volunteers.

4

Refugees United in Nairobi, September 2011

Chapter 1:

Having just joined the Refugees United team, I soon found myself southbound for Africa, the continent where the majority of the people we’re trying to help are located. More specifically, I was headed for Nairobi, Kenya, together with Chris for one week. Despite having traveled a lot, this was my first real ‘Africa trip’, and I felt excited to be on my way to see the ‘subject matter’ of Refugees United with my own eyes.

Our luggage stuck in Cairo, we arrived in Nairobi at 5 am in the morning, nonetheless. After a few hours of sleep, we were ready for an exciting and action packed week to start!

We started our week at iHub, an open community-workspace for techies, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area that was established to give these people a facility where they could bring their ideas to life. There’s a silent energy to the space with techies working intensely on their Macs, and you can definitely feel the ideas buzzing when you walk into the iHub space, overlooking Nairobi from the 4th floor of an otherwise rather unspectacular store and office complex. To add to the atmosphere, there’s even a small coffee bar in one corner that serves great cappuccinos – rumor has it they actually serve the best coffee in Nairobi…:)

@iHub, Chris and I met up with Vladimir, Refugees United’s on-ground man in Kenya, as well as with Ushahidi and Praekelt Foundation. Both organizations work in the field of developing open source technologies for great purposes such as democratizing information flows (Ushahidi) and increasing the well-being of people living in poverty through technology (Praekelt).  The potential for synergies with Refugees United is obvious, and we had some great meetings on how we can collaborate in the future to leverage the Refugees United platform through both organizations’ local tech insights.

Shifting the scene from high-tech to low-tech, we stopped by a local factory where the Refugees United scratch cards, used when signing up people via third-part monitors, are printed. Apart from two smiling and very friendly guards, an old-fashioned punch card clock and a slightly toxic odor greeted us at the entrance. After being dressed up in protective factory coats, we entered the factory halls. At a small table, two factory workers were sitting, focused, with thousands of Refugees United scratch cards, checking each and every one of them manually for number code errors. Even with a single mistake within a stack of 100, the entire stack had to go all the way back to be re-printed, we learned. It’s not often that you get to see the far end of your supply chain, so this was a great visit to be reminded of the people behind our services - in this case behind those thousands of scratch cards that will eventually be handed out to refugees across Africa…

Lastly, we had a great meeting with Kenya Red Cross Society that we’re partnering up with in the upcoming months in order to further roll-out the Refugees United search tool across Africa’s refugee population.  

Best, Claudia

Ushahidi now supports Nexmo inbound SMS!

Great news! The developer community of Ushahidi just finalised the support of Inbound SMS via Nexmo long virtual numbers. 

Few months ago, they’ve developed the plugin for sending SMS via Nexmo and now with few clicks you can also receive them.

Here is where to find the plugin.

If your are an NGO or Non Profit, don’t forget to claim your 10% discount. Special thanks to the Ushahidi developers community who was supportive in bridging the gap between its users needs and Nexmo wholesale product.

Visualizing Online Chatter During Hurricane Irene

Our friends at a firm called GeoSprocket gave a great breakdown yesterday of how they used a combination of technologies to discover trends in online conversations during and after Hurricane Irene. Their challenge, though, is that most Twitter messages don’t carry location data and to get all this content on a map might prove incredibly time consuming for a human.  

Our dataLayer API aims to make this a far simpler process through a technique called location disambiguation (also known as place finding).  This is done by using the other contextual clues that follow online communication, for instance the language someone might used can be combed for words that might appear to be places.  '50 Broadway’ may exist in 100 places in the world, but if it appears next to the word ‘New York’ the algorithm assumes that it’s 50 Broadway, New York, NY which has the Latitude and Longitude coordinate of 40.7061622, -74.0128389.  Since this is done algorithmically, it gives the appearance of messages with no location elements, being mapped somewhat magically.

It’s important to note that neither location disambiguation nor sentiment analysis are perfect sciences but the method can greatly increase the percentage of online chatter that can be mapped in the absence of all other information.  Here’s what GeoSprocket Director Bill Morris had to say about his project…

This is where new developments in “Big Data” analytics come in handy. With some computational heavy lifting from Kate Starbird at the University of Colorado and Chris Danforth at the University of Vermont, Geosprocket was able to bank millions of Twitter posts from the days surrounding the storm. Then the assistance of metaLayer Inc. was instrumental in putting Irene-related tweets on the map. Using a series of digital sifting processes, they were able to mine the archived Twitter data for placenames and keywords. Where a town or street name was included in a post, that post could be placed at a set of geographic coordinates. Were words like “washout” and “devastated” were used, fine-tuned algorithms could assign a scaled value for the sentiment of the post.

Add a bit of cartographic styling and serving with the open-source MapBox toolkit, and we’ve got an interactive mapped timeline of Hurricane Irene, as told by Twitter.

We’re really excited we were able to contribute to GeoSprocket’s project and look forward to what they come up with in the future!  Check out the interactive map of Hurricane Irene tweets made using the dataset here.

Week 4: Where we're at

Starting with Nick and Léa’s road trip the other week, the travelling portion of News21 has started. Niharika and Farhod are in Abingdon, VA, Jason A is in Boston and Melissa, Dewi and I took the subway to midtown today. 

We’re keeping track of everyone using Ushahidi’s “roll-your-own-foursquare" check-in tool which our reporters access through the Ushahid iOS and Droid apps. It’s still an experimental feature so it has some peculiarities. We weren’t able to host it ourselves because of problems in the install, for example, so we’re using the free crowdmap.com version (which pains us dearly since we can’t change the CSS). Also, color assignment for different users we don’t have too much control over.

But it gives a cool picture of where we are and what we’re up to. Let us know what you think: @cunews21.

5

Veja que beleza o aplicativo para smartphones do Mapa Colaborativo #protestosbr.

Instale no seu smartphone: clique aqui para iPhone ou clique aqui para Android.

Após instalar, siga os passos abaixo para configurar o mapa colaborativo no seu smartphone:

  1. Abra o app Ushahidi e espere ele sincronizar, a primeira vez deve demorar uns 3 minutos, aguarde.
  2. Clique no botão “+” do canto inferior direito para adicionar um novo mapa.
  3. Coloque um nome qualquer, tipo #protestosbr (ou outro de sua preferência)
  4. Coloque a URL protestosbr.marcogomes.com

Siga estas recomendações para manter a alta qualidade das informações do mapa.

Web developer David Kobia was a good 13,000 kilometers from Kenya — in Alabama, actually — when civil unrest broke out in his home country following incumbent President Mwai Kibaki’s victory in the December 2007 election. Militias spurred by opposition politicians went on violent rampages attacking members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe with spears and machetes. So Kenya, previously considered an island of stability in crisis-addled East Africa, began 2008 mired in bloodshed.

Then Kobia got a call on his cell phone. A friend of his told him about a Kenyan who had suggested on her blog that somebody post a Google map on the Internet where attacks could be recorded in real time.

Seldom has the expression “born of necessity” been quite so pertinent. Kobia lost no time getting to work, and launched his own portal two days later, marking the start of his successful business Ushahidi (or “Testimony” in Swahili). The site made it possible for witnesses of violence anywhere in Kenya to phone in place and time, which were then mapped.

Five years later Ushahidi has a worldwide reputation for its crisis communication software. The Ushahidi platform, which makes it possible to easily crowd-source information — via SMS, email, Twitter and the Web — is now being used in 30 countries.

After 2010’s Haiti earthquake aid organizations used the system to locate people who’d been buried alive or were starving, and to map collapsed bridges and refugee camps. The information had been gathered from some 25,000 SMS messages and 4.5 million tweets, and the data allowed them to put together a detailed visual of the disaster. A spokesman for the U.S. Marines that were carrying out rescue flights praised the interactive mapping system, saying it had “rescued lives every day.”

A new generation of entrepreneurs

Come Together. Right Now. Over (Social) Me(dia).

Throughout my previous posts, it glaringly clear that the Internet and social media are almost inseparable from our flesh and blood existence, and that this dependence can have both positive and negative consequences. When it comes to Emergency Response and relief, it is no different.

Use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have organically found themselves a part of first response, planning and dissemination of information during emergencies and natural disasters across the globe (Crowe 2012; Gao, Barbier & Goolsby 2011). As the benefits of collaborative social media platforms are realised, developers have created platforms specifically for disaster operations which have been implemented with great success (Ford 2012).

A most notable example is Ushahidi, an open-source platform developed in response to widespread ethnic violence following Kenya’s 2007 presidential election (Crowe 2012). It gathers information from a variety of public sources and collates them on an interactive map of the affected area, providing a visual representation of crisis impact and areas most in need (Crowe 2012; Yange, Zhang, Frank, Robertson, Jennings, Roddy & Lichtenstern 2014).

Example of Ushahidi Map of Haiti Earthquake. (Source http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2010/feb/04/mapping-open-source-victor-keegan)

As first responders to the site of an emergency or disaster are most often average citizens who have direct access to social media on handheld devices, vast quantities of critical information can be spread within seconds (Lindsay, B. R. 2011). This is particularly useful when a situation affects a large area and traditional means of communication fail (e.g. jammed telecommunication networks) (Zeng 2011). 

Among the many other benefits of social media platforms and disaster applications, is that of crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing encourages capable crowds to contribute their “knowledge, skills, abilities, equipment, resources, time and infrastructure” to produce data and solutions that far exceed abilities of individuals or disaster relief on the ground (Crowe 2012, p. 202).

A literal world of skill and knowledge can be sourced at little or no cost, which is critical when physical or financial resources of disaster stricken areas are restricted (Zheng 2011). Citizens will volunteer during times of crisis due to “utopian feelings” and formation of a “therapeutic community”, increasing the likelihood of high quality output from crowdsourcing efforts. (Alexander 2014)

Although crowdsourcing via social media seems like a dream come true for resource stretched emergency managers and volunteer disaster teams, governments and emergency response organisations have been reluctant to fully embrace these new technologies (Alexander 2014; Crowe 2012; Zeng 2011). This reluctance is understandable when the limitations and dangers of online crowdsourcing are taken into account.

One such complication is spread of misinformation. Whether it is unintentional or malicious, in complex situations where speculation can overwhelm the facts rumours can be fertilised by social media (Alexander 2014; Ford 2012).  

Misinformation may slip through the cracks of peer-verification, therefore, current platforms still require significant man-power to sift through the masses of information to find the ‘diamonds in the rough’ 

Another challenge lies in consistency of reliable and skilful contributions and the capacity of platforms to facilitate streamlined collaboration when aid requests depend on fast and accurate responses (Yang et al 2014). While such features are in development, significant focus is required to improve existing platforms (Yang et. al. 2014; Zeng 2011).

Dependence on digital applications is also dangerous when there are populations (on the basis of age, income education or personal preference) who have limited or no access to technology (Alexander 2014). Especially when these populations require the most assistance in times of crisis.

Although these concerns are very real, to ignore the role that social media will continue to play in disaster relief will only slow down the inevitable global incorporation of crowdsourcing and social media into the mainstream of emergency management (Alexander 2014). 

Instead, governments and organisations need to work together to develop policies, procedures and best practice guidelines when it comes to using digital technologies in a collaborative and integrated way (Bruns, Burgess, Crawford & Shaw 2012; Lindsay 2011). Improving the capabilities of emergency response applications and understanding how to best combine them with traditional communication pathways will help to negate the above challenges and generate more power in sourcing and disseminating correct and useful data.

References 

Alexander, D. E. 2014, ‘Social Media in Disaster Risk Reduction and Crisis Management’, Science and Engineering Ethics, Volume 20, pp 717-733.

Bruns, A., Burgess, J., Crawford, K. & Shaw, F. 2012, ‘#qldfloods and @QPSMedia: Crisis Communication of Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods’, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Brisbane.

Crowe, A. 2012, Disasters 2.0: The Application of Social Media Systems for Modern Emergency Management, CRC Press.

Ford, H 2012, ‘Crowd WisdomIndex on Censorship, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 33-39.

Gao, H., Barbier, G. & Goolsby, R. 2011, ‘Harnessing the Crowdsourcing Power of Social Media for Disaster Relief’, IEEE Intelligent Systems, Vol 11, pp. 10-14.

Lindsay B. R. 2011, ‘Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations’, Congressional Research Service Report.

Yange, D., Zhang, D., Frank, K., Robertson, P., Jennings, E., Roddy, M. & Lichtenstern, M. 2014, ‘Providing real-time assistance in disaster relief by leveraging crowdsourcing power’, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol 18, pp. 2025-2034.

vimeo

SwiftRiver Dataflow 1 (by Ushahidi)

The Open Data Movement

The Digital Economy Bill; or Digital Britain as it has been termed, is the UK’s government plans to ensure Britain is at the forefront of the digital revolution and leading global economy. As part of the Bill, in June 2009, past Prime Minster Gordon Brown hired Sir Tim Berners-Lee; the inventor of the World Wide Web to oversee and help launch the new data government website called data.gov.uk which provides access to large amounts of public sector data. Tim has actively pursued the realisation of a Semantic Web; even from it’s early beginnings in 1989 and more recently believes that we will move away from a ‘web of links’ to a more meaningful ‘web of data’.

The open data movement is creating new interactions between the government and the public by liberating all government data including ordnance survey maps into the public domain; making it available and instantly accessible for free, and with complete transparency.

In the new Coalition Programme for Government, some of the policies the PM David Cameron has committed to follow below, which is also similar to the Conservative pre-election promises but in more detail:

•    “New items of central government spending over £25,000 to be published online from November 2010”.
•    “Crime data to be published at a level that allows the public to see what is happening on their streets from January 2011”.
•    “New items of local government spending over £500 to be published on a council-by-council basis from January 2011”.

Where Does My Money Go’ dot org, is an excellent initiative that provides details of British Government spending that before now was only available to a small elite. Its aim is to “Visualise government spending through the ‘lifecycle’: that is from when money enters the system as tax to when it leaves as services, support, etc”

Another example of how this open model of sharing data is effecting people is the US version of the data.gov website. Soon after Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP) released details of community housing in Zanesville, Ohio, a water plant also published information on houses that were connected to a water supply. In July 2008 this evidence led a judge to awarding $10.9 million to residents of a mostly black neighbourhood after finding that the local government had discriminated against the community by denying access to the public water service.

After the Kenyan presidential elections in December 2007, President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner amid reports of alleged electoral manipulation. A crisis-mapping tool was invented shortly after as a way of documenting the reality of violence after the election. Ushahidi (which means testimony in Swahili) is now used across the world via SMS, email or the web to aggregate information from the public for use in crisis response. Users can post updates time on were violence is breaking out or were supplies are most urgently required after a disaster, creating a real-time map.

Days after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 ‘GeoEye’ released satellite imagery of Port au-Prince to the open source community in a bid to help efforts such as the ‘Haiti implementation’ which uses Ushahidi to create a digital map identifying the worst effected areas and various refugee camps setup to help the victims and the hundreds of relief workers. The Ushahidi project has been used in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile but also to fight crime in El Salvador, forest fires in Italy, to track the spread of swine flu and even help clear up heavy snowfalls in Washington earlier this year.

Juliana Rotich: Lighting Candles + Cursing the Darkness | Rising Stars | OZY

When all it takes is a few clicks to pull satellite imagery of almost any square foot of space on the planet, it can be easy to imagine that the world as we know it is completely and thoroughly mapped, charted out to an extent never dreamed of by the storied cartographers of ages past.

But what if maps of the known world began not from a gaze high above but from many points of view, looking from the bottom up?

This is where Juliana Rotich comes in. Born in Kenya in 1977, Rotich had already made a name for herself as a prolific blogger and Web pioneer when she co-founded the crowdsourced mapping platform Ushahidi in 2008. Their aim was nothing less than converting the flow of information into localized action and change.

It all came to a head during a media blackout in 2008, when Kenya was riven with post-election violence.

The situation on the ground was changing quickly, and people had few resources to turn to for reliable information. Rotich and her collaborators David Kobia and Erik Hersman asked themselves, “What if you could just get unmediated information from the affected areas themselves, in nearly real time?” Stitching together reports from SMS, email and messaging might open up an entirely new view of events as they unfolded. 

Lifted from the Swahili word for testimony or witness, Ushahidi is a nonprofit, open-source software platform that collates information into visual displays, otherwise known as maps. In post-earthquake Haiti, Ushahidi collected and mapped information so survivors could let the world know where they were and what they needed. This was a watershed moment for the company, after which their platform began to be adopted all around the world.


Read more: Juliana Rotich: Lighting Candles + Cursing the Darkness | Rising Stars | OZY 



At Ushahidi, we have interacted with various organizations around the world, and the key thing we remember from reaching out to some NGOs in Kenya is that we faced lots of resistance when we began in 2008, with organizations not willing to share data which was often in pdfs and not in machine readable format. This was especially problematic as we were crowdsourcing information about the events that happened that year in Kenya. Our partners in other countries have had similar challenges in gathering relevant and useful data that is locked away in cabinets, yet was paid for by taxpayers. The progress in the Gov 2.0 and open data space around the world has greatly encouraged our team and community.

When you’ve had to deal with data hugging disorder of NGOs, open data is a welcome antidote and opportunity. Our role as Ushahidi is to provide software to help collect data, and visualize the near real time information that is relevant for citizens.  The following are some thoughts from our team and what I had hoped to share at OGP in Brazil. (We are participating virtually via webcast, do join in.)

Read more…

Crowdsourcing During Crisis: Social Capital for the Greater Good

“Social media provide ordinary citizens with the ability to become key players in the construction and framing of crises” – Phillips & Young in Ford (2011)

Australia has had their fair share of natural emergencies over the decades. In recent times social media has played a pivotal role in information dissemination during these emergencies.  Crisis communication through social media in the corporate world mean organisations should have a comprehensive social media policy to keep up with their stakeholders’ expectations.  So how does social capital work for the greater good?

Photo credit: PlusONE n.d.

Crowdsourcing

Recent social capital studies have suggested that disaster response and resilience can benefit from online interactions where collective action is key (Meier 2013). Ordinary digital citizens are able to contribute with social media updates, photo posts or video feeds for crowdsourcing through their electronic devices. Crowdsourcing relies on the knowledge and experiences of citizens to provide critical information during emergencies and other events where timely action is required (Iacucci 2013).  This can be uploaded from mobile phones, news outlets and the web. The collected data can then be filtered into a visual map – most commonly using the Ushahidi ‘CrowdMap’ platform - to be readily understood and freely-accessible by affected citizens (Iacucci 2013).

The authentic unverified information from mapping technology has the capability of saving lives in times of natural disaster emergencies (Posetti & Ping 2012, p. 36) and the capability of organising people more quickly in the event of humanitarian crises (Ford 2012, p. 33). The highest barriers this crowdsourcing technology has to overcome are the risks of erroneous and duplicated information (Alcorn 2011). In addition, the technology has been used to provoke, incite and mobilise hate and terrorist activities (Malet 2014). 

Perhaps in the future the technology will evolve to enable timely accuracy reporting to aid in increasing the success of disaster response and ultimately reduce the loss of lives.

Photo credit: Yaxley in Gombita 2013

Corporate Crisis Communications

Too often, I hear and see a bad review sneak past my Facebook timeline. On these posts there is frequently an accusation that the organisation has deleted the bad review on their page.  What I am seeing on my timeline is the swift and damaging action of the share feature in social media. Instead of sharing the bad review with the limited audience who like the business’ page, it is shared with friends and then friends of friends within hours or even minutes. 

Social media has changed the way stakeholders communicate with organisations. Customers now expect dialogue and engagement in real-time through social media channels (Gonzalez-Hererro & Smith; Grunig; Laad & Lewis in Ford 2011, p.20).  Should this two-way communication not occur, the same social media platforms may then be used against the organisation enabling widespread exposure of issues or complaints (Grunig; Jordan-Meier in Ford 2011, p. 20).

Social media policies within organisations will need to evolve along with the rapid changing technologies and conversational needs of their stakeholders. Having social media engagement may determine the future reputation of the organisation thus having a social media policy which covers the stakeholders’ needs will be key.

References

Alcorn, A 2011, ‘CrowdMap disaster info & citizen reports with Ushahidi’, Makeuseof, 20 January, viewed 17 January 2015, < http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/crowdmap-disaster-information-citizen-reports-ushahidi/>.

Ford, H 2012, ‘Crowd wisdom’, Index on Censorship, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 33-39.

Ford, T 2011, ‘Social media and crisis communication: theories and best practices’, Masters thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario.

Gombita, J 2013, ‘Making sense of the impact of social media on crisis communication’ [image], PR Conversations, 21 November, viewed 15 January 2015, <http://www.prconversations.com/index.php/2013/11/making-sense-of-the-impact-of-social-media-on-crisis-communication/>.

Malet, D 2014, Our new era of crowdsourced terrorism’, The Drum, 19 September, viewed 15 January 2015, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-19/malet-our-new-era-of-crowdsourced-terrorism/5754818>.

Meier, P 2013, ‘Why digital social capital matters for disaster resilience and response’, iRevolutions, 22 July, viewed 18 January 2015, < http://irevolution.net/2013/07/22/why-digital-social-capital-matters-for-disaster-resilience-and-response/>.

PlusONE n.d., 'Tagcloud - crowdsourcing’ [image], Shutterstock, viewed 18 January 2015, <http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-146591291/stock-photo-tagcloud-crowdsourcing.html>.

Posetti, J & Lo, P 2012, ‘The Twitterisation of ABC’s emergency and disaster communication’, The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 34-39, viewed 17 January 2015, <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=046926063833158;res=IELAPA>.

Ushahidi 2009, What is the Ushahidi platform?, 26 November, viewed 16 January 2015, < http://vimeo.com/7838030>.

The Missing Information

This past week I was in Lund, Sweden at a conference called “Innovation of the Mind”. I was among a very diverse set of speakers which included Ray Kurzweil, Darryl Hannah, Danielle Lanyard, and Charles Leadbeater among others. Below you’ll find slides and notes from my own presentation.

Globally, there are 1/3 trillion unindexed images between Facebook and MMS alone. These massive troves of image data from social networks like Facebook or Twitter aren’t available to be indexed by search engines.

Although people send more textual data in terms of quantity, visual data (image and video) may be shared less but in regards to costs is more expensive to transmit and store. People consume more information faster using images and video than text. Thus, the opportunity to innovate areas of visual data technologies has potential to not only save money, but improve experiences for people.

As the mobile web and number of networked devices grows, the number of images available to traditional search products is decreasing exponentially. So visual data is rapidly exploding, but unfortunately the methods for consuming it are not. Therein lies the opportunity.

“Investigators calculate that the human retina can transmit data at roughly 10 million bits per second. By comparison, an Ethernet can transmit information between computers at speeds of 10 to 100 million bits per second.” - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 2006

Let’s take a look at great example of traditional data visualization technologies. For the past year and a half, I’ve worked with a company called Ushahidi. Ushahidi began as a company that made interactive maps that served as real-time situational awareness tools in disaster scenarios. The idea is simple, the public can contribute information about how they are experiencing an event, while first responders gather deep insight in ways that weren’t possible before.

One popular use of Ushahidi is as a data collection and visualization tool. Collecting reports of violence or discontent via SMS and plotting it on an interactive map.

Most contemporary visualization tools work by using stored data, then generating graphical representations of that data. Much of the visual data that’s available on the web is constructed like this. Interactive maps, data visualizations, excel charts, websites and more are each generated from data containers that exist prior to the visualization. One of the things we’re working on at metaLayer is turning this problem on its head - generating the data from images.

When the objects contained within photos or video become sortable, it will be possible to crawl the web in new dimension and this gain deeper insight from information collected from communication.

Networked imagery is the linking of objects in images to relevant targets (wikipedia page, realtime conversations, search results etc.) Once it’s possible to parse and search static media (images), it becomes possible to do the same for moving objects (video). Then it becomes possible to do it in realtime, with real world objects.

Earlier today, Ray Kurzweil mentioned that with solar energy we are capturing information that already exists and converting it into new forms that modern technology can consume. Likewise, with the internet of things we are capturing information that already exists and translating it into information that our devices can consume.

Rather than projecting an additional layer of information onto reality as we do with augmented reality, the internet of things allows us to augment our consumption of actual reality.

This is how we begin connecting non-networked devices to our networked devices like laptops, mobile phones and PCs. We believe this is the future of networked communication - when a glass that exists in the physical realm can share its information with electronic devices which can then relate that information to the user. That might make ordering a beer a little easier the next time I’m here in Sweden.

The future of computing is in connected things. This is where we will find our missing information.

 

Presentation by Jon Gosier
Innovation in Mind 2011 
Lund University - Lund, Sweden
September 14th, 2011

#8 Crisis Media

Social media has quickly become a familiar, useful resource for crisis management. Arguably, a key affordance allowing social media to succeed as a crisis communication tool its visibility. In that, where Television and Radio are stereotypically limited in in terms of broadcasting in ‘real-time’, social media can connect several ideas at once by using hashtags, or reposting content which allows for wider dissemination of knowledge. 

The benefits of new technologies being used to communicate information in crisis or disaster situations were partly realised by Ory Okosuesh. Okosuesh was a blogger who in response to the Kenyan Government 2008 ban on local media asked the public that connected with her to send stories from the ground as they dealt with and responded to the political unrest and the succession of violence.

 The result of this was the formation of Ushahidi, a crowd sourcing platform that allowed for user-generated accounts of events that formed collective information that was then translated visually onto a map. The intended effect of this was citizens would have a platform to share their information regarding current events as well as an outlet to gain information. Fast forward 7 years and our reliance on social media applications for information continue to play an important role in disaster communication.

 In the past few days, an earthquake that will have long lasting effects on the country has devastated Nepal.   While traditional broadcast outlets still exist by means of onsite journalism and television coverage, social media appears to be playing a large role in the communication of safety and danger. In times like this, you find yourself thinking, ‘who do I know that is there’ which may be a relatively selfish thought in the wider scheme of things, but nevertheless we think it. Facebook then tends to act as a representation of the people we knows safety. For example, when I heard about the Nepal Earthquake I checked the Facebook of somebody I know who is currently volunteering in Kathmandu, Nepal. Where I came across the following message:

 This information was directly accessible to the friends and acquaintances of this person. Watching the news or listening to the radio we can not get specific information like this. Another helpful function Facebook introduced can be seen below

 This service offered by Facebook in conjunction with direct reports from users by means of status updates suggests a decentralised network of communication.  Which means there are a large variety of information points broadcasting information.  The benefit of this in times of crisis is the public can potentially have the ability to decipher what information points are useful for them. For example, the needs of person in Kathmandu Nepal right now are extremely different to those who aren’t. Somebody in Nepal arguably requires information on safe routes, dangers and hazards that may accessible through platforms like Ushahidi. On the other hand outsiders are more likely to source information regarding how they can help, donate and the safety of those they know by Facebook or Instagram. In saying this, both scenarios run parallel to each other and are connected by functions such as the hashtag. Which in turn, are also utilised by media outlets to communicate specific messages to the wider public.

The assumptions made in this blog construct social media intervention in disaster communication as helpful and vital to relief efforts. However, what are some of the potential costs and disadvantages of decentralised communication?