Patrick Meier: Departing for Qatar

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Patrick Meier

Joining the Qatar Foundation to Advance Humanitarian Technology

Big news! I’ll be taking a senior level position at the Qatar Foundation to work on the next generation of humanitarian technology solutions. I’ll be based at the Foundation’s Computing Research Institute (QCRI) and be working alongside some truly amazing minds defining the cutting edge of social and scientific computing, computational linguistics, big data, etc. My role at QCRI will be to leverage the expertise within the Institute, the region and beyond to drive technology solutions for humanitarian and social impact globally—think of it as Computing for Good backed by some serious resources.  I’ll spend just part of the time in Doha. The rest of my time will be based wherever necessary to have the greatest impact. Needless to say, I’m excited!

My mission over the past five years has been to catalyze strategic linkages between the technology and humanitarian space to promote both innovation and change, so this new adventure feels like the perfect next chapter in this exciting adventure. I’ve had the good fortune and distinct honor of working with some truly inspiring and knowledgeable colleagues who have helped me define and pursue my passions over the years. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal from these colleagues; knowledge, contacts and partnerships that I plan to fully leverage at the Qatar Foundation.

It really has been an amazing five years. I joined the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) in 2007 to co-found and co-direct the Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning. The purpose of the program was to assess how new technologies were changing the humanitarian space and how these could be deliberately leveraged to yield more significant impact. As part of my time at HHI, I consulted on a number of cutting-edge projects including the UNDP’s Crisis and Risk Mapping Analysis (CRMA) Program in the Sudan. I also leveraged this iRevolution blog extensively to share my findings and learnings with both the humanitarian and technology communities. In addition, I co-authored the UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Report on “New Technologies in Emergen-cies and Conflicts” (PDF).

Towards the end of HHI’s program in 2009, I co-launched the Humanitarian Technology Network, CrisisMappers, and have co-organized and curated each International Conference of Crisis Mappers (ICCM) since then. The Network now includes close to 4,000 members based in some 200 countries around the world. Last year, ICCM 2011 brought together more than 400 participants to Geneva, Switzerland to explore and define the cutting edge of humanitarian technology. This year, ICCM 2012 is being hosted by the World Bank and will no doubt draw an even greater number of experts from the humanitarian & technology space.

I joined Ushahidi as Director of Crisis Mapping shortly after launching the Crisis Mappers Network. My goal was to better understand the field of crisis mapping from the perspective of a technology company and to engage directly with international humanitarian, human rights and media organizations so they too could better understand how to leverage the technologies in the Ushahidi ecosystem. There, I spearheaded several defining crisis mapping projects including Haiti, Libya, Somalia and Syria in partnership with key humanitarian, human rights and media organizations. I also spoke at many high-profile conferences to share many of the lessons learned and best practices resulting from these projects. I am very grateful to these conference organizers for giving me the stage at so many important events, thank you very much. And of course, special thanks to the team at Ushahidi for the truly life-changing experience.

During my time at Ushahidi, I also completed my PhD during my pre-doctoral fellowship at Stanford and co-founded the award-winning Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF) to provide partner organizations with surge capacity for live mapping support. I co-created the SBTF’s Satellite Imagery Team to apply crowdsourcing and micro-tasking to satellite imagery analysis in support of humanitarian operations. I also explored a number of promising data mining solutions for social media analysis vis-a-vis crisis response. More recently, I co-launched the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) in partnership with a UN colleague.

The words “co-founded,” “co-launched,” and “co-directed” appear throughout the above because all these initiatives are the direct result of major team-work, truly amazing partners and inspiring mentors. You all know who you are. Thank you very much for your guidance, expertise, friendship and for your camara-derie throughout. I look forward to collaborating with you even more once I get settled at the Qatar Foundation.

To learn more about QCRI’s work thus far, I recommend watching the below presentation given by the Institute’s Director who has brought together an incredible team—professionals who all share his ambition and exciting vision. When we began to discuss my job description at the Foundation, I was simply told: “Think Big.” The Institute’s Advisory Board is also a source of excitement for me: Joichi Ito (MIT) and Rich deMillo (GeorgiaTech), to name a few.

Naturally, the Qatar Foundation also has access to tremendous resources and an amazing set of partners from multiple sectors in Doha, the region and across the globe. In short, the opportunity for QCRI to become an important contributor to the humanitarian technology space is huge. I look forward to collaborating with many existing colleagues and partners to turn this exciting opportunity into reality and look forward to continuing this adventure with an amazing team of experts in Doha who are some of the best in their fields. More soon!

Phi Beta Iota:  If the USA has an Open Source Agency Dr. Meier would be, if not Chief Scientist, director of an integrative laboratory.  The USA has lost its way across the board — the money and the innovation are elsewhere.