After the earthquake in Haiti, a community of crisis mappers immediately began crowdsourcing open street maps in a way that has changed disaster response forever. Using an open source stack and simple collaboration tools to combine and annotate image sets, usable maps were quickly put in the hands of rescue workers, allowing a rapid response that saved lives.
Johnson and his team note that partnerships between groups and institutions including the open source mapping community, the military, government and the Haitian people were a key factor which paved the way for imagery to be quickly gathered and released to the public domain. Combining data from a variety of sources, including text messages from people trapped in the rubble, the collaboration platform allowed maps to be annotated with the roads, buildings and the locations of people needing help. Thousands of student and NGO workers were mobilized into a crisis mapping network which accomplished in weeks what it has taken months to tackle in past disasters.
What factors account for this unprecedented success? And, is it repeatable in the future? Johnson challenges the audience to consider ways that collaborative, volunteer efforts can be sustained. It takes a passionate crowd to make crowdsourcing work, and the key to fostering that passion is relationships.
Jeffrey Johnson is a web developer who is passionate about geospatial applications of web technology. He has broad experience in developing internet and geospatial applications. He's interested in building data and tool sets to acquire, produce and distribute Very High Definition Aerial Imagery.
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Photo: James Duncan Davidson