The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Disparate Data Challenge encourages participants to offer solutions that can demonstrate effective capabilities that enable access to data that is wildly disparate in its formats, schemas, interfaces and locations, so that it may be available for search, business metrics and data and information analytics.
Here is our submittal to NGA that was selected within Stage 1 of the competition.
This is the author’s preliminary draft of the second of three monographs focused on the future of the US Army as an expeditionary force in a complex world that is rapidly decentralizing while also facing major development challenges. This second monograph (the first presented a notional Grand Strategy for discussion) presents the holistic analytic model and the resulting strategic generalizations from the Marine Corps’ original study, Overview of Planning and Programming Factors for Expeditionary Operations in the Third World (Marine Corps Combat Development Command, March 1990). The model is neither complete nor current – it is a starting point for reflection. A new comprehensive model is needed that supports Grand Strategy not only across the D3 – Defense, Diplomacy, and Development – planning and programming domains, but across Whole of Government (WoG) as well, and ideally, also into the multinational and “eight tribe” conceptual space as well – future operations demand the full integration of both estimative intelligence and operational inclusion of all elements of society, not just government – military.
Flash floods in Beijing have killed over 70 people and forced the evacuation of more than 50,000 after destroying over 8,000 homes and causing $1.6 billion in damages. In total, some 1.5 million people have been affected by the floods after Beijing recorded the heaviest rainfall the city has seen in more than 60 years.
The heavy rains began on July 21. Within hours, users of the Guokr.com social network launched a campaign to create a live crisis map of the flood’s impact using Google Maps. According to TechPresident, “the result was not only more accurate than the government output—it was available almost a day earlier. According to People’s Daily Online, these crowd-sourced maps were widely circulated on Weibo [China’s version of Twitter] the Monday and Tuesday after the flooding.” The crowdsourced, citizen-generated flood map of Beijing is available here and looks like this:
I just had the pleasure of speaking with my new colleague Jakob Rogstadius from Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (Madeira-TTI). Jakob is working on CrisisTracker, a very interesting platform designed to facilitate collaborative social media analysis for disaster response. The rationale for CrisisTracker is the same one behind Ushahidi’s SwiftRiver project and could be hugely helpful for crisis mapping projects carried out by the Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF).
One of the principal Research and Development (R&D) projects I’m spearheading with colleagues at the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) has been getting a great response from several key contacts at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In fact, their input has been instrumental in laying the foundations for our early R&D efforts. I therefore highlighted the initiative during my recent talk at the UN’s ECOSOC panel in New York, which was moderated by OCHA Under-Secretary General Valerie Amos. The response there was also very positive. So what’s the idea? To develop the foundations for a Twitter Dashboard for the Humanitarian Cluster System.
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 Robert Kirkpatrick from Global Pulse has been actively promoting the concept of “data philanthropy” within the context of development. Data philanthropy involves companies sharing proprietary datasets for social good. I believe we urgently need big (social) data philanthropy for humanitarian response as well. Disaster-affected communities are increasingly the source of big data, which they generate and share via social media platforms like twitter. Processing this data manually, however, is very time consuming and resource intensive. Indeed, large numbers of digital humanitarian volunteers are often needed to monitor and process user-generated content from disaster-affected communities in near real-time.
Meanwhile, companies like Crimson Hexagon, Geofeedia, NetBase, Netvibes, RecordedFuture and Social Flow are defining the cutting edge of automated methods for media monitoring and analysis. So why not set up a Big Data Philanthropy group for humanitarian response in partnership with the Digital Humanitarian Network? Call it Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) for digital humanitarian response. These companies would benefit from the publicity of supporting such positive and highly visible efforts. They would also receive expert feedback on their tools.
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.
The United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Information Management (GGIM) recently organized a meeting of thought-leaders and visionaries in the geo-spatial world to identify the future of this space over the next 5-10 years. These experts came up with some 80+ individual predictions. I’ve included some of the more interesting ones below.
The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as a tool for rapid geospatial data collection will increase.
3D and even 4D geospatial information, incorporating time as the fourth dimension, will increase.
Technology will move faster than legal and governance structures.
The link between geospatial information and social media, plus other actor networks, will become more and more important.
Real-time info will enable more dynamic modeling & response to disasters.
Free and open source software will continue to grow as viable alternatives both in terms of software, and potentially in analysis and processing.
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).