What have we done.
- Built a single source of health facility information to provide the fundamental operational dataset for health facilities
- Members of DHN (including SBTF) also established the Ebola IM/GIS skype group and its associated Coordination Spreadsheet which has hundreds of members and is actively in use both in the field and remotely. The DHN have received reports from stakeholders stating:
‘this has dramatically improved the sharing of GIS data and the communication between organisations… we have seen collaboration and the sharing of data and capabilities between divergent organizations, geographies and time zones because of the forums and conversations facilitated by this group’.
The time already spent on this activity has of course given experience and knowledge about the countries, about the digital landscape surrounding the crisis, and the network of connections in a large group of organizations. As a free and independent entity, the presence of volunteer organizations like SBTF, DHN, OSM and others seems to be of great value. There is a landscape of actions that can be taken by us, that complement that of formal responders, and our work has demonstrated that in some cases we are better positioned to carry out some key activities.
But the nature of this crisis has certainly challenged the capacity of a totally volunteer organization like the SBTF; we have delivered, though, the most comprehensive dataset of health care facilities of the affected countries
The first deployment phase included collecting baseline data for the affected countries in collaboration with NetHope. All data was shared through the Open Humanitarian Data Repository, initiated by NetHope.
Later on, Standby Task Force joined the UN OCHA project Humanitarian Data Exchange, where the aim is to use the a common classification language on humanitarian response, to ease the use of the data across organizations and platforms. All our maps and data collected during crisis are aimed to be shared publicly, and this is one of the platforms where this will happen.
OCHA also provides the HumanitarianResponse.info platform to support humanitarian operations globally. Eventually, the results of the SBTF data mining will find its way here.
Finally – we now have an internal, common hub for the maps created, which – if we manage to fund it, will turn into an archive of the deployments and work of our volunteers. A hub for them to point to and say: This is what I contributed doing!
Take a look at the SBTF map collection here, the first place our new logo is being used: http://standbytaskforce.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html
What we will continue doing
- Maintain and promote the Ebola IM/GIS collaborative group and coordination spreadsheet
- Management of remote tasking
- Support and guidance to remote volunteer teams
- Development of data products as requested by field teams in partnership with the remote volunteers
- Continue developing open data standards to facilitate cooperation across West Africa
What phase 3 could look like
Other well-funded groups are looking into increasing the digital capabilities of responders to this crisis. Some of the projects that are being considered are: mobile cell-towers, tablets and smartphones for information gathering, and server hubs used for sharing and analyzing.
SBTF/DHN has plans for improving field access to essential parts of the information already collected through downloadable, printable sets of maps and information. Due to unreliable internet, field workers need hard copies that contain the relevant data needed to complete their tasks. Another major challenge is the lack of a situational overview on the ground. Without a central command structure, active organizations do not know what is being done, by whom and where. Furthermore, we lack essential information on the health systems of these countries. Often, we do not know whether a given clinic is operating or closed, staffed or lacks equipment – in particular for the health systems in rural districts. If the SBTF could find a way to engage with volunteers on the ground or through the large diaspora, it may be possible to create a volunteer-driven data collection never before experienced in this part of the world. The project could be syncronized and developed in collaboration with MSF, British Red Cross, ACAPS and other entities.
The situation on the ground is changing every day. Based on the information already collected, the SBTF/DHN would strive to keep the information on health clinics updated. We can accomplish this through information exchanges with survey teams on the ground. To follow up, collect and publish this data, we would need a team of individuals on a permanent day to day basis for as long as it takes to turn the escalating nature of this disaster. Based on the latest information from the World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated time-frame is a minimum of three months; more likely a period of six months..
The other task SBTF/DHN are looking into is “private funders”, or ‘in-kind donations’, to help identify what is being made available for the ebola response, and match these resources to the most appropriate responding teams.