Immediately following the massive earthquake in Nepal on Saturday, April 25, there was an outpouring of support both financial and material to help the stricken and remote countryside. The news media has featured not only the devastation, but also the heroic efforts of humanitarian and rescue workers from around the world as they pitched in to help survivors and assess the damage. Meanwhile, most of the rest of us can only watch helplessly from afar, with perhaps a monetary donation to an aid agency our only practical way to help.
[Nepal geography photo – “Nepal topo en”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nepal_topo_en.jpg#/media/File:Nepal_topo_en.jpg]
But a new form of digital volunteer support for disaster recovery has emerged. As of Wednesday, April 29, more than 2100 micromapping “Digital Jedis” have assisted in screening over 60,000 images and tweets from affected survivors and helpers on the ground to crowdsource the creation of a plan of action for aid organizations. This virtual screening of aid requests, volunteer offers, reports of damage to infrastructure and the like serves to limit such information being lost in the chaotic aftermath of disasters. In addition, this accurate, current information can help save lives. The sorted information is mapped and sent to the aid agencies, providing real-time updates of the situation in a particular area.
[Image source: Al Jazeera Science & Technology column, 11/13/2013 – http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2013/11/interactive-mapping-damage-philippines-2013111372853666106.html]
MicroMappers is a product of the Qatar Computing Research Institute and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Its first micromapping disaster recovery project was the Pakistan earthquake in 2013. Other disasters the Digital Jedis have assisted with included the Philippines 2013 and 2014 typhoons, the Balkan flooding of May 2014, the Chilean earthquake of 2014 and the Vanatu tropical cyclone this March.