Tag Archives: Telescience

The Rise of CrisisMapping and the CrisisMappers Group

My colleague Jennifer Leaning and I co-founded the Program on Crisis Mapping and Early (CM&EW) at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) back in June 2007. At the time, the term “Crisis Mapping” was virtually unheard of. In January 2008, Ushahidi demonstrated how crisis mapping could be combined with crowdsourcing and SMS.

In October 2009, my colleague Jen Ziemke and I launched the International Network of CrisisMappers with a dedicated Crisis Mappers Google Group, which currently has over 700 subscribers. Jen and I also co-organized the  first International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM 2009) last year and are now preparing for ICCM 2010, which will focus on Haiti and Beyond. Over 30 online videos on Crisis Mapping have also been produced and we recently launched a dedicated monthly WebCast series on CrisisMapping as well.

On January 21, 2010, I attended a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she noted the pivotal role of interactive maps and SMS in the disaster response to Haiti. In her own words:

“The technology community has set up interactive maps to help us identify needs and target resources. And on Monday, a seven-year-old girl and two women were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed supermarket by an American search-and-rescue team after they sent a text message calling for help. Now, these examples are manifestations of a much broader phenomenon. The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet.”

The CrisisMappers community played an instrumental role in the disaster response to Haiti. The interactive maps that Clinton refers to  include OpenStreetMap, Sahana, Telescience and Ushahidi. I like this idea of a new nervous system and hope the CrisisMappers community can continue growing this nervous system to ensure more rapid responses to crises. The term “crisis mapping” is at least beginning to make the rounds.

A Google search of “crisis mapping” in October 2009 returned 36,500 hits. Today, 5 months later, the search returns “123,000″ hits.  During this time, Crisis Mapping initiatives have been written about and featured on CNN, ABC News, MSNBC, BBC, Reuters, UK Guardian, Al-Jazeera, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Newsweek, the Globe and Mail, Wired, NewScientist, PC World, DiscoveryNews, Forbes Magazine and the TED Blog.

Several members of the CrisisMappers Group are currently preparing to present their projects at this year’s Where 2.0 Conference:

  • Haiti: Crisis Mapping the Earthquake –> link
  • Crowdsourcing the Impossible: Ushahidi-Haiti –> link
  • Community-Based Grassroots Mapping –> link
  • Mobilizing Ushahidi-Haiti  –> link
  • Crisis Mapping –> link
  • MapKibera –> link

I very much look forward to ICCM 2010 as I’m very curious to discuss what the next generation of crisis mapping technologies and applications will bring.

Patrick Philippe Meier