Dear CartONG supporters,
Update on CartONG’s projects
2013 started with many new projects for CartONG. On the professional side, the team continued working with UNHCR (in particular with a mobile data collection training in Nairobi), GIZ in Vietnam but also for REACH in South Sudan.
One of the key moments of this first semester was the organization of the NOMAD workshop on May 15th-17th in Paris. The event’s goal was to connect the mobile data collection tools providers with the humanitarian professionals interested by these technologies. It was a major success: more than 70 attendees, from around 20 countries. It was also an opportunity to present NOMAD’s new online selection assistant. This tool allows humanitarian organizations to find the solution most fitting to their needs, based on a survey designed to help them specify their requirements.
CartONG hence pursues its goal to spread state-of-the-art technologies to the humanitarian field, with always the same objective in mind: offer the best tool for each situation, and help humanitarian actors make the best of these tools. It is also why we intend to continue developing specifically designed trainings for NGOs. CartONG also plans to launch a technological watch blog, you will hear about it soon…
New volunteers, new projects!
The get-together organized in April in Savoy has triggered new developments for CartONG’s volunteers’ projects. After 2 months of preparation, we now have a working team to answer the requests of our partners, the French NGO of firemen GIS74. We are now ready to quickly prepare them maps for when they deploy on the field after a disaster. Interested by emergency mapping and have a bit of free time? Join the team!
By the way, we would like to progressively offer the services of this team to other NGOs (the deployment of GIS74 are not that frequent), in particular those working in emergency rescue. You can contact us if your organization fits these criteria, or if you know one which does.
The other volunteer’s projects are also moving forward: we are currently building a model website and GIS for the participatory mapping project with Eastern DRC’s native people communities, and new projects are starting soon in Madagascar and Morocco (Skoura). We have also attended several events in order to meet the other actors from the humanitarian field: 2013 State Of The Map organized by OpenStreetMap France, “GIS for shelter and settlement” workshop in Geneva, and Groupe URD’s 20th birthday.
To keep up with the good work and welcome new volunteers, we have decided to organize a new get-together in the autumn, in Savoy, during the week-end of September 28th and 29th, 2013. This meeting will be dedicated to projects, trainings on tools, but also an extraordinary General Assembly to revise our status, in order to face its recent growth. And of course to spend a good time together!
Team & volunteers at April get-together
CartONG’s volunteers are here for you!
The volunteer side of CartONG intends to become a pro bono resource center for small NGOs, in the humanitarian or development field, in France or abroad. You don’t have the funds to develop your own services or to pay for mapping professionals? Feel free to apply your mapping and information management needs to us, we’ll work with you to solve them (as far as we can of course)!
You have skills in mapping, GIS, remote sensing, fundraising, project management, etc.? Or you are simply motivated to help the relief and development actors to improve their impact? Join CartONG and contribute to our volunteer’s projects!
Besides, we would also like to remind you that if CartONG’s volunteers give their time for free to help small NGOs, their action still have a cost: servers, devices, transport, and first and foremost coordination (which needs to be permanent, hence assured by a staff member). That is why we are always glad to welcome “supporting” members, even if they don’t have time to get involved in the projects, and donors. Finally, if you have any idea of a foundation or a donor who could help us financing our volunteer’s activities, we are open to your suggestions!
Want to join CartONG as a volunteer and/or become member to support us?
Contact Martin: m_noblecourt[at]cartong.org
Last minute news: CartONG has started the planning of GeOnG 2014, the biennial meeting for humanitarian mapping in France! It will be hosted in fall of 2014 in Chambéry (Savoy), we will announce the day soon. Please contact us if you want to get involved in the preparation.
In the meantime, you can always have a look to the videos and presentations of GeOnG 2012’s sessions on our website.
Technical article: About Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing: how democratization of new technologies is becoming a new tool to support humanitarian operations.
-There are more than six billion people around the world connected to a mobile network and one third of the world population have access to the Internet, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Based on a worldwide network of volunteers, crowdsourcing allows handling very big data sets in a very short amount of time. Crowdsourcing for rapid emergency mapping has been increasing rapidly since the 2010 Haiti crisis.
Initially developed for the 2008 Kenyan elections, Ushahidi, a mapping and reporting tool for incidents which has demonstrated the power of crowdsourcing in various deployments all over the world, also raised questions and suspicions, especially from major international organizations like the United Nations, since information coming from crowdsourcing is not using traditional communication channels.
As a response several UN initiatives were launched with focus on innovation and Open Source technologies like Global Pulse to research, evaluate and improve these new tools in order to meet the criteria of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development): Relevance, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Sustainability.
It is undeniable that during the last crises, especially crowdsourcing of geographic knowledge, has improved the response time of many operations, e.g. saving lives by being able to locate facilities down to the street level. It is also helpful getting to know the needs of beneficiaries through direct communication like sms based tools and web platforms easily accessible to beneficiaries. However, these tools will only be of relevance if they are linked to direct response
The effectiveness of crowdsourcing is now well established1, as one can see with the rapidness of deployment of the HOT (Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team) or Digital Humanitarian Network, or when measuring the level of details obtained and the number of volunteers involved in such processes2.
Crowdsourcing is almost a victim of its success. For example, to monitor the Kenyan elections in 2013, no less than three mapping platforms and seven phone numbers were available for the population. That is why codes of conduct should be developed and implemented. Launched by GSMA, the "SMS code of conduct" is a first approach of best practices for the implementation of crowdsourcing services for beneficiaries.
This is probably the main advantage of crowdsourcing: based on volunteering and involving the local population, the deployment costs are low compared to the results. Time savings on the collection of information through a crowd can be remarkable but it also requires quality control and dedicated resources to manage and communicate to a crowd, in order to ensure good results. Some organizations like the Stand By Task Force has created Verification Team. But also as Patrick Meier highlights with the example of Emergency numbers in the States or citing the journalists: " We use verification and investigation processes which have proven themselves". Also, epic tasks, like assisting after a disaster usually evoke faster response and attract more volunteers than tasks that are of less public interest.
The sustainability of these crowdsourcing projects rely on two conditions: sharing the data collected through platforms; and improving the mechanisms of rapid responses in order to capitalize for future crises. The organizations running these crowdsourcing processes also need to provide training on these new tools to local communities and beneficiaries, in particular for the young generations.
However, the anticipation and the substantive work should not be neglected. Indeed having the data and tools before the crisis should increase the success. Getting prepared for a crisis is easy to do for periodic climatic events, elections and ongoing conflicts, but more difficult for natural disasters. After the onset of an emergency, communication is the key factor in order to make crowd sourcing tools effective and useful. In fact, technology should not replace the dialogue but help to facilitate and improve it. So it is important to plan what to say to the beneficiaries in case no response mechanism can be provided after they gave their feedback.
Therefore, new technologies and crowdsourcing can also be used as direct project Monitoring and Evaluation tools with the beneficiaries reporting, which will foster and continue a long-term relationship between beneficiaries and organizations in the field, and lead to better transparency in the management of humanitarian aid and hence to greater accountability of international organizations.
The power of crowdsourcing lies in its potential to quickly mobilizing volunteers. It still requires training of volunteers and local communities. And also training or awareness from humanitarian actors to learn how to use this information sensibly and not being drowned in "big data." Despite some resistance, crowdsourcing as support for humanitarian operations is booming, placing the beneficiary at the heart of the action and developing the concept of e-volunteering; because "it is more a matter of human commitment, dedication and cooperation, than a question of technology "(Jaroslav Valuch, Ushahidi).
- The CartONG team