In the wake of typhoon Haiyan, disaster relief teams are descending on the Philippines from all over the world, trying to get aid to the victims. As part of the relief efforts, social media is being mined by volunteers to provide aid workers with real-time maps of where the most help is needed. "A decade ago, disaster relief workers got a few emails a day over sporadic satellite phones," says the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's John Crowley. "Now the flood of messages reaches one per second, 24/7." The boost in communications is the result of new emergency telecommunications infrastructure, such as the inflatable broadband antennas being deployed in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, MicroMapper's global network of volunteers is helping to sift through the data. MicroMapper provides real-time maps of where people are asking for help and where destruction is the greatest. The maps are created by volunteers who sift through social media coming out of disaster zones. Volunteers also help to keep maps up to date by using OpenStreetMap, which enables expatriates and people living in the vicinity to work in a Wikipedia-style collaboration.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is leading an effort to develop the Humanitarian Exchange Language, open software that would enable relief groups to exchange data.
From New Scientist
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