Distributed Emergency Mapping In Haiti

Ushahidi is “a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline.” They are producing a real-time map of crisis-relevant locations in Haiti. People currently in Port-Au-Prince can submit reports by text-message to a single phone number. The raw feed of reports coming in are interpreted by volunteers who then add them to the map under a number of categories like “road blockage”, “food available” or “missing person”. Volunteer teams in the US have been swapping off with teams in Africa to maintain the site and keep up with reports throughout the day and night. Those volunteers are also monitoring a long list of news articles, blogs, agency updates and the like to generate reports directly.

In addition to the map, people on the ground can sign up to be notified whenever a there is a new report within a customizable distance of their location.

There seem to be multiple aggregations of incoming reports, possibly broken into SMS messages submitted directly from Port-au-Prince, and items collected from news and social networks by volunteers. Those aggregations contain detailed and in many cases alarming information.

Reading through the blog posts and news reports, it looks like the map is being used primarily by international agencies to distribute resources. I’m curious to what degree internet is available within Port-au-Prince itself. Apparently, there must be some access, because previous to cell service being established, reports were coming in through “Web reports, email and Twitter”. According to their situation room,the SMS method of reporting is now working.

Additionally, Google is coordinating a person-finding application.

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