Map For Ebola with American Red Cross

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The American Red Cross presents another opportunity to help First Responders on the ground through Open Street Map!

Will you be our crowd? We are mapping in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Multiple aid organizations, including the Red Cross, have deployed medical teams to identified sites in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and additional detailed base map data is needed to assist in the response. We will focus on mapping the Joru area, covering parts of southeastern Sierra Leone and western Liberia. No prior experience is necessary, but we recommend that you sign up for an account ahead of time at www.openstreetmap.org, if you do not already have one. You can learn more about the task beforehand here.

Not familiar with OpenStreetMap or the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team? Check out the mapping tutorials and watch the video “Why Map?” to learn more about crowdsourced mapping.

When: Friday, August 22nd, 2014    2pm – 6pm

Where: American Red Cross’s Board of Governors Room at 430 17th St. NW, Washington, DC

What: Bring your laptops if you are planning to map, and a mouse if you have one (we will bring extras if you don’t have a mouse). Food will be provided. If you can’t make it in person, you can map the task with us on any computer with internet access.

RSVP: For further information and to RSVP visit our Meetup page here.

Monitoring Arms Control Compliance With Web Intelligence

Traditional monitoring of arms control treaties, agreements, and commitments has required the use of National Technical Means (NTM)—large satellites, phased array radars, and other technological solutions. NTM was a good solution when the treaties focused on large items for observation, such as missile silos or nuclear test facilities. As the targets of interest have shrunk by orders of magnitude, the need for other, more ubiquitous, sensor capabilities has increased. The rise in web-based, or cloud-based, analytic capabilities will have a significant influence on the future of arms control monitoring and the role of citizen involvement.

Since 1999, the U.S. Department of State has had at its disposal the Key Verification Assets Fund (V Fund), which was established by Congress. The Fund helps preserve critical verification assets and promotes the development of new technologies that support the verification of and compliance with arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament requirements.

Sponsored by the V Fund to advance web-based analytic capabilities, Sandia National Laboratories, in collaboration with Recorded Future (RF), synthesized open-source data streams from a wide variety of traditional and nontraditional web sources in multiple languages along with topical texts and articles on national security policy to determine the efficacy of monitoring chemical and biological arms control agreements and compliance. The team used novel technology involving linguistic algorithms to extract temporal signals from unstructured text and organize that unstructured text into a multidimensional structure for analysis. In doing so, the algorithm identifies the underlying associations between entities and events across documents and sources over time. Using this capability, the team analyzed several events that could serve as analogs to treaty noncompliance, technical breakout, or an intentional attack. These events included the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China, the Shanghai pig die-off and the fungal meningitis outbreak in the United States last year.

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Continue reading “Monitoring Arms Control Compliance With Web Intelligence”

Connecting Grassroots to Government Podcast #5: Michael Frank Goodchild

Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks. The workshop summary report is available here.

In this podcast, Michael Frank Goodchild talks about major improvements he sees taking place over the next decade in relation to social media and disaster response, particularly how diverse, web-based data streams could be cleaned up and synthesized. With new technologies, Goodchild hopes for “a means to turn a whole lot of stuff into a complete picture.” Goodchild further talks about data quality issues surrounding this information.

Goodchild, an emeritus professor of geography at the University of California-Santa Barbara and an affiliate professor of geography at the University of Washington, was formerly director the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

We spoke with Goodchild at the Connecting Grassroots to Government workshop in September 2012.

Connecting Grassroots to Government Podcast #4: Kate Starbird

Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks. The workshop summary report is available here.

We caught up with Kate Starbird at the Digital Grassroots to Government workshop in September 2012 to talk about public engagement during emergency situations.

Starbird, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington and director of the Emerging Capacities of Mass Participation Laboratory, is particularly qualified to tackle this subject considering her work looking at large- and small-scale group online interaction related to mass crises and disasters. In this podcast, Starbird discusses talks the operational and technical challenges to engaging volunteers and the public during emergency situations. Continue reading “Connecting Grassroots to Government Podcast #4: Kate Starbird”

NEW REPORT: Connecting Grassroots and Government for Disaster Response

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Leaders in disaster response are finding it necessary to adapt to a new reality. Although community actions have always been the core of the recovery process, collective action from the grassroots has changed response operations in ways that few would have predicted. Using new tools that interconnect over expanding mobile networks, citizens can exchange information via maps and social media, then mobilize thousands of people to collect, analyze, and act on that information. Sometimes, community-sourced intelligence may be fresher and more accurate than the information given to the responders who provide aid.

The Commons Lab has released Connecting Grassroots and Government for Disaster Response, a new report by Public Policy Scholar John Crowley that explores approaches to the questions that commonly emerge when building an interface between the grassroots and government agencies, with a particular focus on the accompanying legal, policy, and technology challenges.

Also see the companion report from our September 2012 workshop, written by Ryan Burns and Lea Shanley, as well as a series of videos from the workshop and podcasts with workshop participants.

Connecting Grassroots to Government Podcast #3: Aiden Riley Eller

Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks. The workshop summary report is available here.

Aiden Riley Eller, the vice president of technology and security at CoCo Communications Group in Seattle, has contributed to the development and implementation of myriad software security measures, including the security-testing service ClickToSecure Cloud.

In this podcast, Eller discusses the security challenges facing government agencies using social media and raises some of the concerns about the unintended consequences of widely sharing information via these channels.

Further, Eller makes the point that the it is very difficult for an agency to maintain a useful voice over social media if it is seen as a secondary activity. “Stale data [and] stale information . . . are very dangerous for people relying on them,” he says.

NEW REPORT: Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management

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The growing use of social media and other mass collaboration technologies is opening up new opportunities in disaster management efforts, but is also creating new challenges for policymakers looking to incorporate these tools into existing frameworks, according to our latest report.

The Commons Lab, part of the Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program, hosted a September 2012 workshop bringing together emergency responders, crisis mappers, researchers, and software programmers to discuss issues surrounding the adoption of these new technologies.

We are now proud to unveil “Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management: Workshop Summary,” a report discussing the key findings, policy suggestions, and success stories that emerged during the workshop. The report’s release coincides with the tenth annual Disaster Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Department of Homeland Security to help educate the public about preparing for emergencies.
Continue reading “NEW REPORT: Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management”

Connecting Grassroots to Government Podcast #2: Will McClintock

Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. Please stay tuned: Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks and the workshop summary report will be published in September.

We caught up with Will McClintock at the Connecting Grassroots for Disaster Management workshop last year to talk about the future of web-based, collaborative technologies.

McClintock, a project scientist at the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute and a senior fellow with the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Center, spoke with us about the current technology developed for decision making, particularly geospatial technology and techniques. He says many of these interfaces are developed without consideration of non-technical decision-makers, further noting that the quickening pace of emerging technology will require faster development in the future and a new way of looking at software.
Continue reading “Connecting Grassroots to Government Podcast #2: Will McClintock”

Report Looks at Successful Government Crowdsourcing Efforts for Earthquake Monitoring

Citizen Seismology Report
Citizen Seismology Report

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other scientific institutions are using social media and crowdsourcing to learn more about earthquakes, according to a new report. These techniques provide inexpensive and rapid data to augment and extend the capabilities provided by traditional monitoring techniques.

The new report, Transforming Earthquake Detection and Science Through Citizen Seismology, released today by the Commons Lab at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, outlines these groundbreaking citizen science projects.

The report describes how the USGS and others are engaging the public and advancing earthquake monitoring and knowledge of seismic events. The ultimate goal, according to the USGS, is to provide more rapid earthquake detection and generate more real-time hazard and impact information. Continue reading “Report Looks at Successful Government Crowdsourcing Efforts for Earthquake Monitoring”

Connecting Grassroots to Government Podcast #1: Eric Rasmussen

Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. The conversation below with Eric Rasmussen is the first of these podcasts. Please stay tuned: Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks and the workshop summary report will be published in June.

Eric Rasmussen wears many hats: He is a medical doctor, a research professor for environmental security and global medicine at San Diego State University, an affiliate associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington, and the managing director at Infinitum Humanitarian Systems, a “profit-for-purpose” company in California that focuses on reducing vulnerability for systems and populations. In addition to sitting on a number of boards, Rasmussen served in the Navy for more than 25 years and was deployed more than 15 times to Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

In this podcast, Rasmussen discusses the limitations software developers face when moving ideas from concept to implementation in disaster response, noting that developers often have too little access to end users and too little understanding of the constraints faced by those users in the field. He also discusses the need to engage agencies and other responders early on to make sure new systems are incorporated into agency response plans and the role of policymakers in addressing these challenges.