Crowdsourcing strategies for disaster relief

During his speech last week Michael Wesch discussed Ushahidi‘s crisis mapping work in Kenya, and how it spurred the development of similar SMS-based systems of information sharing.

This inspired my research topic around crowdsourcing.

I’d like to focus my research on the value of crowdsourcing strategies to non-profits organizations.  I found this article through Miami University library search.   I believe this to be a credible reference for my research as it was populated using ESCO research data system. In addition, this article is supported by thorough research and a list of reference that includes journal articles, industry blogs, and print resources.

This report is an example of how crowdsourcing was used to create a specific action from its participants to ultimately provide assistance to victims of the Haiti earthquake. It details the use of a crowdsourcing strategy using SMS technology for diaster relief.

Article Summary

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, San Franciso based technology company called Crowdflower conducted crowdsourced translation, categorization and geo-tagging for SMS-based reporting as part of disaster relief collaboration Mission 4636.

How they did it

“Crowdsourced crisis response harnesses distributed human networks in combination with information and communication technology (ICT) to create scalable, rapid communication systems that promote well-being, survival, and recovery during the acute phase of an emergency. “

A short code“4636” was created. Anyone could text the number for free to request help.  CrowdFlower volunteers provided translation, categorization and geo-tagging.

Kreyol speakers around the world were recruited to translate and tag requests.   These volunteers were gathered using word of mouth and a small amount of viral online marketing about Mission 4636.  Workers were shown the SMS request message from Haiti and asked if they could understand and translate the message.  Translated messages were then processed and categorized, and Crowdflower posted feeds of translated and tagged messages which were routed to relief agencies.

Why it Worked

  • Multiple organizations like CrowdFlower, Ushahidi and other agencies worked together quickly and efficiently.
  • A flexible crowdsourced workflow was created using a series of microtasks.
  • Crowdsourcing eliminated the need to forecast or anticipate work capacity.

Parts of the SMS technology are now used by other organizations like Red Cross, Plan International, charity: water, the U.S. State Department, International Medical Corps, AIDG, USAID, FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard Task Force, World Food Program, SOUTHCOM, OFDA and UNDP.

Vaughn Hester, A. S. (2010). Scalable crisis relief: Crowdsourced SMS translation and categorization with Mission 4636. ACM DEV ’10 Proceedings of the First ACM Symposium on Computing for Development .


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