Changing the World… One Map at a Time
New technologies for collecting and analysing information are becoming increasingly important to organizations in the humanitarian, human rights, election monitoring and media space. Most of the time, however, these organizations do not have bandwidth to dedicate existing staff and resources to create live maps. Nor do they have access to a skilled volunteer community for support. The purpose of the Standby Task Force (SBTF) is therefore to provide dedicated crowdsourcing, mapping, data scrambling and technology testing support to such organizations, particularly local organizations.
The SBTF, which was launched at the 2010 International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM 2010), currently comprises some over 1,000 skilled volunteers with dedicated experience in online Crisis Mapping. Existing SBTF volunteers are from 70+ different countries and have been involved in crisis mapping projects for Haiti, Chile, Pakistan, Colombia, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Philippines etc.
Crisis Mapping is composed of four key components: information collection, visualization, analysis and response. This explains why the SBTF takes a modular approach comprising the following Teams, which can be activated in combination or individually:
- Technology Team – Responsible for all technical tasks related to Crisis Mapping such as launching crisis mapping platforms and integrating existing SMS and RSS feeds.
- Media Monitoring Team – Monitors online media and social media for relevant reports.
- SMS Team – Monitors incoming SMSes and processes them for the map.
- Geo-Location Team – Finds GPS coordinates for locations in Media and SMS reports.
- Report Team – Create reports inside the Ushahidi platform (if available) and does quality control on the data inputted by the volunteers.
- Verification Team – Triangulates reports from the Media Monitoring and SMS Teams.
- Analysis Team – Provides summary reports based on the incoming data.
- Translation Team – Translates Media and SMS reports from/to English.
- Satellite Imagery Team – Provides satellite imagery analysis using micro-tasking.
- Humanitarian Team – Comprises existing professional humanitarians who liaise between the Task Force and humanitarian organizations.
- Task Team – perform all tasks not performed by other teams, provide support, does data scrambling and internet research and perform ad hoc assignments
The SBTF prefers to work with open, non-proprietary data. Note however that all SBTF volunteers are required to sign a code of conduct based on Red Cross principles for data privacy and general conduct. The SBTF is currently exploring partnerships with a number of important communities including Open Street Map (OSM), MapAction, Sahana and CrisisCommons. Existing volunteers are currently skilled in using the Ushahidi and Tomnod platforms but the SBTF actively seeks to extend volunteer skill sets to include mapping and information tools designed by these other communities. A dedicated Webinar series also seeks to provide volunteers with a better understanding of the humanitarian field with speakers presenting on the UN Cluster system, for example.