So that’s what he’s been up to! My good friend and mentor Ken Banks of Kiwanja fame has just launched a very interesting initiative entitled “Means of Exchange“. Ken wants to democratize opportunities for radical economic self-sufficiency and thus render local communities more resilient to exogenous shocks. “I’ve been taking an increasing interest in economic resilience,” writes Ken, “particularly how technology might help buffer local communities from global economic down-turns. Ironically, since I started my research the world has entered a period of growing economic uncertainty. The causes–although fascinating–don’t so much interest me, more the response at local, grassroots level.”
To say that Ken’s ideas directly resonate with my ideals would be a huge understatement. My iRevolution blog is currently in its fifth year of production and as the About page explains, “This blog features short thought pieces on how innovation and technology are revolutionizing the power of the individual through radical self-sufficiency, self-determination, independence, survival and resilience.” I’m incredibly excited by Ken’s new initiative. He quotes this excellent comment by Calvin Coolidge, which really hits home:
“We pay too little attention to the reserve power of the people to take care of themselves. We are too solicitous for government intervention, on the theory, first, that the people themselves are helpless, and second, that the government has superior capacity for action. Often times both of these conclusions are wrong.”
I have written many a blog post on this very people-centered notion as applied to crisis early warning and humanitarian response. Hence my pitch two years ago for a Match.com applied to humanitarian relief. Take this blog post, for example: “The Crowd is Always There: A Marketplace for Crowdsourcing Crisis Response.” But Ken is not just advocating for a “Match.com for Economic Resilience,” he is also building the infrastructure to make it happen: “A number of apps to support this work are planned for rollout during the year, with the first due for release in summer 2012.”
My colleague Jeannine Lemaire from the Core Team of the Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF) recently pointed me to Geofeedia, which may very well be the next generation in crisis mapping technology. So I spent over an hour talking with GeoFeedia’s CEO, Phil Harris, to learn more about the platform and discuss potential applications for humanitarian response. The short version: I’m impressed; not just with the technology itself and potential, but also by Phil’s deep intuition and genuine interest in building a platform that enables others to scale positive social impact.
Situational awareness is absolutely key to emergency response, hence the rise of crisis mapping. The challenge? Processing and geo-referencing Big Data from social media sources to produce live maps has largely been a manual (and arduous) task for many in the humanitarian space. In fact, a number of humanitarian colleagues I’ve spoken to recently have complained that the manual labor required to create (and maintain) live maps is precisely why they aren’t able to launch their own crisis maps. I know this is also true of several international media organizations.
There have been several attempts at creating automated live maps. Take Havaria and Global Incidents Map, for example. But neither of these provide the customi-zability necessary for users to apply the platforms in meaningful ways. Enter Geofeedia. Lets take the recent earthquake and 800 aftershocks in Emilia, Italy. Simply type in the place name (or an exact address) and hit enter. Geofeedia automatically parses Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and Instagram for the latest updates in that area and populates the map with this content. The algorithm pulls in data that is already geo-tagged and designated as public.
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).
Angela Lee: Audience preference and editorial judgment: a study of time-lagged influence in online news
To what extent are audiences influencing editors and journalists, and vice versa? Editorial judgement measured based on placement on paper; audience preference measured by clicks, looking at a 3-hour interval. Audience preference influences editorial decisions three hours later (which suggests editors are watching behavior and responding). However not seeing a reciprocal effect of editorial judgement on audiences.
I’m wondering if the results are influenced by assumptions embedded in the structure of the methodology for the report.
Some popular stories get pushed down on the home page, not sure why? Could be relevance of speed and immediacy – stories might be pushed down to make room for fresh content. Lee calls for input from journalists at the conference.
Alfred Hermida (who’s also been live blogging the conference, and who wrote the book on Participatory Journalism).
Sourcing the Arab Spring: A case study of Andy Carvin’s sources during the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. How is sourcing evolving in the networked social sphere?
“We looked at sourcing, because sourcing matters.” Who we talk to as journalists affects not just what we report, but the meaning we derive from the reporting. When journalists cite non-elite sources or alternative voices, we treat them as deviant, as the others. Powerful and privileged dominate sourcing.
Carvin was doing a very different type of reporting, messaging and retweeting on Twitter. Carvin was like a “must-read newswire” (per Columbia Journalism Review). 162 sources in Tunisia, 185 sources in Egypt. Coded into categories: mainstream media, institutional elites, alternative voices, and other. Alternative voices included people involved in the protests.
“In November 2009, boyd traveled to New York City to deliver what she expected to be a major address at the Web 2.0 Expo, one of the year’s most important gatherings of Internet professionals. Her topic was what she terms “living in the stream,” or how not to drown in the flood of information that comes at us all the time. Teens, she believes, are especially good at this. The most web-savvy of them manage to stay open to all the digital stuff without having to process everything. They take what they can handle and remain untroubled that much may elude their grasp. It’s a kind of cyber-Zen. “The goal is . . . to be peripherally aware of information as it flows by, grabbing it at the right moment, when it is most relevant and valuable, entertaining or insightful,” she said at the Expo. “It is about a sense of alignment, of being aligned with information.” She talked about the high some Twitter users get “feeling as though they are living and breathing with the world around them, peripherally aware and in tune, adding content to the stream and grabbing it when appropriate.””
Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, 9 April 2012
In just three decades between 1990 and 2020, the internet will have grown from linking just a few experts in labs to connecting the entire human species through computers and mobile phones as well as billions of objects into an “Internet of Things,” a seamless web of infinite data. As a result, we have transitioned from the familiar Information Age into the uncertain Hybrid Age, an era in which technology is rapidly becoming ubiquitous, intelligent, and social, radically transforming our societies, markets, and governance.
Intelligent Energy & Infrastructure
Sustainability has become the dominant theme of the early 21st century. To successfully transform societies toward lower consumption and greater productivity requires, first and foremost, increasing our urban intelligence through smart grids that connect offices, homes, and traffic lights into an energy saving and generating eco-system. “Smart cities” are emerging all over the world, from greenfield developments such as Songdo in Korea and Tianjin Eco-City in China to retrofit districts in Stockholm, Hamburg, and Rio de Janeiro.
Intelligent Markets & Consumers
Innovation is once again a buzzword among leading corporations, yet many have failed to realize that the future lies not just in innovating products but, more importantly, in innovating experiences. Based on growing online interaction, consumers now expect a real-time, personalized, and social experience as part of the every product offered. Augmented reality, collaborative consumption, game-ification, and sensors embedded in apparel are all examples of how products are being tailored to location, personality, and preferences, while also allowing consumers to share feedback through social networks.
Corporate management faces dramatic challenges today: an aging workforce, talent shortages, and rising competition from emerging markets. The only way to maximize the skills and ambitions of employees is to enable systems of collaboration called “virtual teams” irrespective of division or geography. The new “soft architecture” of the workplace includes Telepresence monitors, social robots, and software platforms which allow for virtual networked cooperation among globally mobile employees and contractors.
In an age of information overload, we now need interactive machines to help us analyze and extract maximum value from all the data we collect about ourselves. From the smart home to the smart car, we are moving beyond a one-way relationship with technology towards interacting with machines using natural gestures and voices, and even trusting them with personal information. The most significant impact of such machines will be felt in healthcare, where data collected from wearable devices will monitor everything from our blood pressure to our moods. In order to partake of the intelligent revolution, each of us must consciously fashion our daily lives and personal living spaces to accommodate and take advantage of new data streams and applications rapidly coming to market.
Social networks have unleashed citizen revolutions from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign to the Arab Spring in the Middle East. Rather than succumb to waves of unforeseen pressure, clever mayors from New York and Paris to Dubai and Singapore are deploying elaborate digital strategies to streamline government services and create citizen engagement platforms. An entirely new kind of governance is emerging: through partnership with private sector entrepreneurs, software programmers, and bottom-up social movements, government increasingly operates through interactive dashboards that identify policy and investment needs and respond efficiently.
Ayesha Khanna is Managing Partner of Hybrid Realities, a consulting firm specializing in scenario analysis, technology trends, future cities, and geostrategy. She is also Founder and Principal of the Hybrid Reality Institute, which explores human/technology co-evolution and its implications for society, business and politics.
Phi Beta Iota: Elegant and worthwhile but missing the larger point, that all of these applications of technology are still controlled by the status quo ante powers, doing the wrong things righter, not the right thing. Absent an autonomous Internet and Open Everything, the Internet will be degraded the way Occupy was so quickly degraded.
I recently had the distinct honor of being on the opening plenary of the 2012 Skoll World Forum in Oxford. The panel, “Innovation in Times of Flux: Opportunities on the Heels of Crisis” was moderated by Judith Rodin, CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation. I’ve spent the past six years creating linkages between the humanitarian space and technology community, so the conversations we began during the panel prompted me to think more deeply about innovation in the humanitarian space. Clearly, humanitarian crises have catalyzed a number of important innovations in recent years. At the same time, however, these crises extend the cracks that ultimately reveal the inadequacies of existing humanita-rian organizations, particularly those resistant to change; and “any organization that is not changing is a battle-field monument” (While 1992).
These cracks, or gaps, are increasingly filled by disaster-affected communities themselves thanks in part to the rapid commercialization of communication technology. Question is: will the multi-billion dollar humanitarian industry change rapidly enough to avoid being left in the dustbin of history?
Crises often reveal that “existing routines are inadequate or even counter-productive [since] response will necessarily operate beyond the boundary of planned and resourced capabilities” (Leonard and Howitt 2007). More formally, “the ‘symmetry-breaking’ effects of disasters undermine linearly designed and centralized administrative activities” (Corbacioglu 2006). This may explain why “increasing attention is now paid to the capacity of disaster-affected communities to ‘bounce back’ or to recover with little or no external assistance following a disaster” (Manyena 2006).