The race to fill this information gap in Nepal is on. The 7.8-magnitude quake has killed more than 5,000 people already and disaster relief efforts are kicking into action to prevent further deaths.
Crowdfunding information gathering and analysis has become key in coordinating the logistics of crisis management. The response to the 2010 Haiti quake was the game changer. Crisis response is no longer only about raising funds, but sharing information to coordinate the logistics of using those funds efficiently.
Note: Click here to check out the interactive data visualization. Hover over the circles to read the tool tip for each earthquake disaster
Time is of the essence. Sharing information reduces time by avoiding bottlenecks and repetition. The name of the game is to assess the damage and plan a response, asap. Often the government itself is in disarray and centralised systems are weakened. Crowdsourcing has proved to be powerful in helping people show constructive acts of compassion.
Open Street Map creates and distributes free geographic data through crowdsourcing to provide details and accurate maps of roads and villages. Not everyone has to go down the road to find out that it has been destroyed. Why not just use Google Maps?
Because data is copyrighted it is owned by multiple organisations, like Ordnance Survey. This is about data as a currency.
Several communications giants have chipped in too, helping people to track their loved ones quickly. Viber and Skype launched free calls in Nepal, Facebook activated Safety Check and Google launched a Person Finder. Translators Without Borders crowdsources translation from translators around the globe to ease effective communication during relief efforts.
Twitter and Facebook have been helping to raise funds for non-profits through social media adverts. Ushahidi , Sahana, CrisisMappers, Arcgis and the UN Humanitarian Data Exchange are all providing information management software specifically for crisis relief.
The tools tend to work with geospatial data to show what happened, when and where (often referred to as the 3Ws). Standby Task Force and MicroMappers organise trained digital volunteers into flexible teams.
For the Nepal response, they have been searching social media for reports of damage and requests for assistance to help create a database which agencies on the ground can utilise. You can see an analysis of the Twitter text and images related to the Nepal Earthquake.
The Nepal response disproves the naysayers. Perhaps, after all, it is human nature to share? Be it data or money, the chipping in of people around the globe in whatever shape or form has shown how powerful human compassion and cooperation can be.
Source for earthquake data: USGS.gov
The article was written in collaboration with Mitzi László