The CSS Blog Network

New Collaborations for Better Maps in Crisis

OpenStreetMap - Project Haiti 4

Visualisation in OpenStreetMap after the earthquake in Haiti. Photo: ItoWorld/flickr.

Accurate and timely maps are a vital resource in contemporary disaster and crisis management. Maps are essential for identifying vulnerabilities, monitoring the effects of disasters and organizing countermeasures. Traditionally, the mapping of crises was the exclusive domain of experts, including cartographers and crisis management professionals. But with the growing democratization of information and communications technology, this monopoly is disappearing.

Recent disasters have witnessed a new generation of online maps, created by civil society actors and relying on volunteers to collect, organize, verify, visualize and share geo-refer­enced information. Prominent examples include the crowdsourced maps created in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Although these mapping projects differed in many respects, they had a common aim – to aggregate geo-referenced information from a large number of sources in order to make that information useful for emergency man­agers as well as those affected by the crisis. » More

The Development Impact of Information and Communication Technologies

Libya Crisis Map deployed by the Standby Task Force (Standbytaskforce.com) using the Ushahidi platform.

From mobile applications to improve the livelihoods of illiterate farmers to water-management and crisis mapping, the broad spectrum of research and projects presented at the ICT4D – The development impact of information and communication technologies conference on 10 November in Zurich was representative of the wide range of applications and impacts information and communication technologies (ICT) can have in the field of development. Organized by the ETH’s North-South Centre (which has repeatedly focused on the question of how ICT can best serve as a driver for development), the conference highlighted the need for a shift away from a technology-led approach towards one that emphasizes the creative use of already established technologies. Speakers included researchers and practitioners who were not only addressing classical development questions but also shedding light on the political dimensions of the use of ICT.

You’ll find a list of all speakers and their presentations at the end of this blog post. For now, let me pick out a few key themes and challenges that kept recurring throughout the discussion. » More