Friday, November 29, 2013

A tradition returns! a new series of SMEM posts for the Holidays!

It's that time of the year again! My #smem compadres Jim Garrow (@jgarrow) , Kim Stephens (@kim26stephens +Kim Stephens ) and I will each come up with a series of blog posts looking back at the year (and beyond) in the field of social convergence for emergency management.

Jim's already introduced his series and announced some big news. I'm sure Kim will surpass us again with her insightful writing. As for myself, I'll take a look at the top 10 technologies (either software, hardware, mobile tech or social platforms) that make social convergence a reality in emergency management.

This will be a logical continuation of my previous two Holiday series:
Hope you stay tuned ! and I look forward to Jim and Kim's stuff!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Digital volunteerism and the on-scene reality

Empathy is a powerful human trait. It's displayed in great acuity during large-scale disasters such as what we're witnessing currently in the Philippines. The socially-convergent illustrations of this phenomenon (crowdsourcing and crisis mapping) are the subject of many interpretations, blog posts and articles. 

A whole series of digital initiatives have played a vital role in the response efforts so far. The response is phenomenal ... people are volunteering their time and skills to help in any way they can. But a real question needs to be asked? 
Do these efforts focusing on technology actually help those impacted by the disaster? 

It's important to ponder those questions. Actual concrete on-the-ground stuff has to happen ... starting with rebuilding some kind of infrastructure:
because if nobody has connectivity in the disaster zone, all the tweets in the world don't matter #oneteamonefight #smem

Just remember for all of the Philippines #SMEM and crisismap effort somebody has to rebuild networking for any of that to work

Someone who I respect greatly, Patrick Meier, believes digital volunteers ARE making a difference. To me, three key criteria need to be met for digital volunteer efforts to be more than just "feel good" endeavours:

  1. is the data produced supporting efficient decision-making and the strategic allocation of disaster relief and goods?
  2. are digital efforts helping the people on the ground? By helping them to find missing relatives or friends for example, or by providing amplification of emergency information (information as aid) ? 
  3. Is the information/data valid? A crucial point to convince authorities and emergency managers to get on the SMEM/SCEM wagon. Are crisis maps accurate?
Time will tell but I believe the vast coalition of digital volunteers and VTCs are playing an essential role. In a country like the Philippines, the crowdsourced expertise supplements national capabilities that may not be as resilient as one would hope. 

For that reason alone ... and for offering to everyone with a basic understanding of social networks and mapping, a way to channel their empathy, I say a big thank you!  All the leaders who have made digital volunteerism an inescapable reality in any disaster response deserve our admiration.