Disaster 2.0: UN OCHA releases report on future of information sharing in crisis

The emergence of crisiscamps and subsequent maturation of CrisisCommons into a platform for civic engagement were important developments in 2010. Hearing digital cries for help has never been more important. A year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a new report by a team at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative analyzes how the humanitarian, emerging volunteer and technical communities collaborated in the aftermath of the quake. The report recommends ways to improve coordination between these groups in future emergencies. There are 5 specific recommendations to address the considerable challenges inherent in coordinating crisis response:

  1. A neutral forum to surface areas of conflict or agreement between the volunteer/technical community and established humanitarian institutions
  2. An space for innovation where new tools and approaches can be experimented with before a crisis hits
  3. A deployable field team with the mandate to use the best practices and tools established by the community
  4. A research and development group to evaluate the effectiveness of tools and practices
  5. An operational interface that identifies procedures for collaboration before and during crises, including data standards for communication

Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies” was commissioned by the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership in collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). You can find more discussion of the report in a series of posts on disaster relief 2.0 at UNDispatch.com, like this observation from Jen Ziemke:

…a substantial majority of members on the Crisis Mappers Network have held positions in formal disaster response, some for several decades. Volunteers in groups like the Standby Task Force include seasoned practitioners with the UNDP or UN Global Pulse. But what is really needed is a fundamental rethinking of who constitutes the “we” of disaster response, as well as dispensing with current conceptions of: “volunteers”, “crowds,” and “experts.” While distinctions can be endlessly debated, as humans, we are far more the same than we are different.

Whether it’s leveraging social media in a time of need or geospatial mapping, technology empowers us to help one another more than ever. This report offers needed insight about how to do it better.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

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