Re: SMS alert system in Haiti/thanks Andrius-Ricardo-Peter
- Hi Janet, I share your letter with Tiffany Von Emmel and Dreamfish
because I think she knows many women's groups and might help you network
with them. I share with Joy Tang of One Village Foundation likewise,
and I keep Suresh Fernando and Open Kollab posted because of their
interest in large scale collaborations for the big problems in the
world. Andrius Kulikauskas, Minciu Sodas, http://www.ms.lt, ms@...
Janet Feldman wrote:
> Dear Andrius, Ricardo, Peter, and All,
> Thanks for this excellent posting, and yes, I am working now with Ushahidi!
> Something very exciting and seredipitous--or perhaps synchronous--has occurred during the past few months: in the late fall, I was contacted by Ushahidi reps both in Kenya and internationally, to ask if I would network for them to women's groups in particular, who might want to use their system.
> Right at that time, unfortunately, I was coping with some difficult family matters, so did not do networking then. I want to pick up this thread of conversation at Holistic Helping, in fact, seeing as we have some women's groups and their reps here, from Kenya, Cameroon, and elsewhere. I'm sure Ushahidi will also be interested in working with mixed and men's groups or individuals as well.
> In any case, just as I was clearing a path in early January to do some networking for them, the earthquake in Haiti hit, and the next thing I knew, I was reading that the heart of the crisis response center in the USA is at the graduate school I attended 20+ years ago, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.
> I did not know how to hook up with that effort directly, but when two urgent messages came my way from another source, someone else urged me to post those to the Ushahidi Haiti site, which I did, and in that process have connected with the team at Fletcher who is doing the crisis mapping.
> We have made contact, and are trying to find help for, a group of about 250 people in a town some ways from Port-au-Prince. We have also been trying to get some help to a larger group of 1500, who live on a mountain outside of the capital.
> The latter has been a mixed experience, in that we can locate the place they are in, but the maps we have cannot pinpoint the location. The official response system--which includes govts and NGOs organized into what is called a "cluster system", based on areas of interest, such as shelter and health--is also concerned about them, esp because of rains and possible mudslides.
> I posted about their needs to an "official" cluster site, and the cluster head actually responded, something they did not do when I posted about the first urgent case. I have been trying to reach the woman who sent out the SOS (an American and founder of an org called Trees for Life Haiti), but alas, she is not responding to emails, and her phone number is not in service (I called her as a last-ditch effort the other day to reach her).
> In the first case there is active communication, but so far, no concrete help has emerged. However, a number of excellent contacts have been brought into the conversation by Ushahidi, so I hope that will translate into some material help arriving soon.
> There are a number of stories of individuals who did text and have received help--even being dug out from the rubble--but a number have also died while waiting for help, and local phone lines have been jammed or non-operational. This is partly what Ushahidi has been trying to address.
> Technology has been both incredibly helpful and even life-saving, in other words, but sometimes SMS and other tech tools are only as good as the larger infrastructural setting in which they operate, and sometimes they in themselves are simply not able to address the myriad of other issues that crop up in reporting emergencies and other alerts.
> The scale of this disaster, and its swiftness, coupled with the already "challenged" state of the infrastructure in Haiti, has made for what will probably be seen as a "mixed bag" in terms of "information" vs "ability to respond effectively".
> I think it's a miracle that this type of communications system can work at all, and I'm sure it will only improve each time it is used. For example, I think response effectiveness in situations of war and/or civil conflict is much more developed than it was in Kenya--where Ushahidi began--as it has been applied in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere.
> This is the first natural disaster, I believe, so some of the principles and tools are the same from Kenya to Haiti, but modifications can and surely will be made for the next time this technology is used to address natural disasters.
> There are other such tools and approaches also being used, and in concert with Ushahidi, such as the InSTEDD system. Andrius met some of these folks a couple years ago, and one was at HH for a bit. I tried to engage her in a conversation about MS and InSTEDD working together (around the time of our peace project), but did not get a response.
> There are plans now to hand over the Ushahidi response system formulated in and for Haiti to Haitians themselves, when the time is right.
> Each time it is used, I believe, there is a hope both for "localization" and "globalization" of Ushahidi as a tool and concept, by which I mean that the Ushahidi folks envision and plan for "locals" taking over the specific project set up to help address their needs, while at the same time the tool and "idea" of Ushahidi becomes expanded (in the minds of its creators and those who use it) to include more situations, and new or refined means to achieve similar ends.
> Our own MS-linked "emergency response system"--developed during the peace project in Kenya--has some unique aspects to it, and this could be further developed to provide our own valuable tool to add to the toolchest being developed to address situations of crisis and need.
> I am going to cycle back to the notes written a month or so ago by Mark, Sherrie, Peter, and others here, and give you some feedback about ways that you and we might be helpful now in Haiti.
> I look forward to discussing and hopefully collaborating around that, and thanks to everyone for your interest and caring! With all best wishes and blessings, Janet
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Andrius Kulikauskas <ms@...>
>> Sent: Feb 21, 2010 7:08 AM
>> To: firstname.lastname@example.org, help group <email@example.com>, openkollab@..., dreamfish@...
>> Subject: [holistichelping] SMS alert system in Haiti
>> Ricardo, I alert Suresh Fernando to this SMS alert system, especially
>> the work flow system, because he's interested in this kind of
>> collaboration on a massive scale. That's the kind of effort I'd like to
>> help Open Kollab take note of, map, link up with, develop funding for.
>> I also alert Tiffany Von Emmel and the Dreamfish community because she's
>> also pioneering new online work flows. Janet Feldman has many years
>> worth of contacts in Haiti, is helping with efforts there, and is
>> working with Ushahidi, perhaps on this project. I share also with her
>> Holistic Helping group. Andrius Kulikauskas
>> ricardoolpc wrote:
>>> Dear All
>>> Peter Burgess and I were recently discussing (by email) help-reporting
>>> in Haiti. Peter said 'his interest is a little bit of data that helps
>>> to improve knowledge a lot' (knowledge of the current situation, where
>>> help is needed, etc).
>>> I noticed a news article in the New York Times called "Cries for Help
>>> via Text Messages Are Used to Direct Aid to Haiti" it said that during
>>> the current Haiti disaster, a message was sent to every phone on the
>>> Haitian networks, telling people they can report problems and request
>>> help by sending an SMS text-message to 4636.
>>> This Ushahidi blog page says that the service has been set up and
>>> operated by Ushahidi (the developers of the SMS facility) and lots of
>>> It describes how it operates, as follows...
>>> /How it works/
>>> /The basic process for this project follows is this:/
>>> 1. /Put word out that people on the ground can send [Name,
>>> location, status/message]/
>>> 2. /SMS submitted, with varying levels of structure/detail/
>>> 3. /Enters database/
>>> 4. /Passed to a mechanical turk-type outfit of volunteers for
>>> 5. /Message is structured in the database/
>>> 6. /Gets passed off to orgs (via //Sahana/
>>> <http://haiti-orgs.sahanafoundation.org/prod/>/) that can do
>>> something about the issue/
>>> And to bring all this information, requests and reports together in a
>>> useable form, it says they set up an online database...
>>> / "Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes, Brian Herbert worked with Josh, Luke
>>> Beckman from //InSTEDD/ <http://instedd.org/>/, //Paul Goodman/
>>> <http://pdgoodman.com/>/ from //DAI/ <http://www.dai.com/>/, and Rob
>>> Munro to structure content. They created an online database at
>>> //http://4636.ushahidi.com/ <http://4636.USHAHIDI.COM>/ where incoming
>>> raw SMS reports can be tagged and mapped."/
>>> They also have volunteers monitoring Facebook and Twitter, to see
>>> where help is needed.
>>> Anyway, please read the whole Ushahidi blog page if it interests you.
>>> It interests me when i think about Peter's question "How could someone
>>> gather a small amount of data that would improve knowledge a lot".
>>> With Ushahidi's system, thousands of survivors and NGOs are sending in
>>> all sorts of SMS reports and it takes an army of volunteers to process
>>> it all. I'm thinking about "In a future disaster situation, where
>>> fewer volunteers and resources are available, is there a simpler way
>>> to get an adequate overview of the situation?". You have to bear in
>>> mind that there may not be NGO staff, helath-workers, etc, everywhere,
>>> to send in well-formatted, statistically-valid reports by SMS, just
>>> ordinary people. How little information would one need to gather, to
>>> allocate food-aid etc correctly?
>>> _Google Earth Map_
>>> I also noticed that Google has produced a Google Earth .KML file for
>>> Haiti, that you can download and open in the Google Earth program, to
>>> see Haiti (Port Au Prince, etc) as it is after the earthquake, with
>>> destroyed buildings. (If you just use the ordinary Google Earth
>>> service, it still shows Haiti as it was before the earthquake).