Sold out – Digital Responders in Qatar

On October 7th, Qatar Computing Research Institute and Qatar Red Crescent Society will co-host the first ever Digital Humanitarian meetup in Doha, Qatar. We are sold out! The room holds 100 people and that is how many free tickets we made available. If you reserved a ticket and can no longer attend please email me asap so that I can open up a ticket for the waiting list. IF you are looking for a ticket, please do contact me.

The Digital Humanitarians in Qatar registration page

Digital Humanitarians
are people who use their technical, social, community and storytelling power to help support humanitarians in their work. We aim to use maps, data, and social media to provide information and insights. While this is the first event of its kind in Doha, we join a growing global civic technology community.

Digital Humanitarians in Qatar(updated).

About the Digital Humanitarians in Qatar event

Technical preparedness supports a resilient city and country. Qatar has a highly technical and young population. Digital Humanitarians use their social media savvy, create maps, conduct data analysis and use new media tools to provide insights to support humanitarians and affected communities. How can we get young people more engaged in their world, region and country? This is an opportunity to be globally responsible while potentially using the acquired digital skills for your work. We will work in partnership with humanitarians locally and globally to help you contribute.

What will you learn in this session?
In this session, we will provide an overview of the basic digital skills for humanitarian response online. Our guests will share real humanitarian scenarios for us to do some hands on learning.

Topics include:
  • Overview of Humanitarian response – context for emergencies
  • Introduction to Crisismapping and Digital Humanitarians
  • Social media curation, analysis and verification
  • Hands on exercises

We will provide more details on how you can learn between sessions and answer questions based on real world experiences. 

Who should attend:

Digital Humanitarians come from all walks of life. All you need is a willingness to learn and a technical device (mobile, tablet or laptop). There are many different types of contributions that people can make – large and small in terms of time and activities. In the global community, there are teachers, students, business people, creative people, humanitarians, researchers, analysts, data science, GIS experts and more. We will provide introductions to each of the various communities and skillsets to help your learning journey. It starts with us. 


How to: A Digital Humanitarian Handbook

The Digital Humanitarian community is growing. In the Digital Humanitarian Network, there are many communities and organizations. Each of them have a specific set of skills to offer. While there are some guides for each of the groups, there is no free, online and translated course or introduction guide to help people get involved.

The purpose of this community driven project is to create a community sourced guide on github to help people learn from each other. This online handbook builds on the work of 1000s of community members who use their technical skills for good. Earlier this year, my colleague, Patrick Meier published his book about Digital Humanitarians. How can we widen the circle of participation and reach new areas to support resilience. For example, during the Nepal Earthquake response, the Japanese community created a translated version of the Nepal building guide for how to map in OpenStreetMap with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The Qatar Computing Research Institute and Standby Task Force response to the Nepal Earthquake had over 2800 participants from around the world. Our IP address report highlighted a participation gap in some regions of the world. At the recent World Humanitarian Youth Summit, I presented on why I think these digital skills are essential for the youth communities. Participants expressed an interest in learning and evolving this for their regions of the world.

During my time with the Qatar Red Crescent team at their annual Disaster Management Camp, we determined that core materials need to be translated into Arabic. I’ll be hosting local Digital Humanitarian training in Doha starting on October 1st. But what about the rest of the global community of civic tech and technical savvy communities. We hope that this will support our collective mission to encourage resilience and preparedness. And, while we are focused on crisis and emergencies, we think these core skills are very transferable to all the Sustainable Development Goals.

How to get involved

Or contact @heatherleson or @willowbl00 for help.

Draft Table of Contents

In the upcoming Digital Responders call in, we will review this draft table of contents. This will then be added to github to begin the curation process. Stay tuned for more details soon.

  • SECTION: Digital Humanitarianism Introduction
  • History of Crisismapping and Digital Humanitarians
  • Lessons and best practices
  • Code of conducts
  • Ecosystem: Working with Humanitarians and Contributors
  • Tools and Techniques overview
  • Examples by various topics – environmental, crisismapping
  • SECTION: SMS, social media and messaging (Whatsapp)
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Storify, Storiful,Blogging
  • Social media storytelling
  • SECTION: Community work
  • big tasks, small tasks
  • Microtasking 101
  • Software development in HFOSS
  • managing community lists
  • managing language and culture
  • SECTION: Data collection and analysis
  • Data Collection 101
  • sensors, social media, sms
  • Data Analysis
  • basic tools and techniques
  • SECTION: Verification
  • Overview and the Verification handbook
  • Verily and other tools
  • Visualization
  • charts, graphs
  • SECTION: maps
  • basic network maps
  • Geo for Good
  • Mapping 101
  • Mapping Google
  • Mapping OSM
  • Mapbox and Cartodb intro
  • Mapping ESRI
  • SECTION: Simulation 1: Teamwork and Roles (Global scenario)
  • How does coordination work during emergencies?
  • Coordination and community guidance
  • after action review
  • Simulation 2: Technique and mentoring (GCC scenario)
  • Technique testing
  • after action review
  • What to do with data after a project is done
  • How having a pre-existing community matters (KLL and Public Labs as examples)
  • Adversaries in digital space? InfoSec but also GamerGate
  • Digital colonialism
  • Sample curriculums
  • Sample simulation templates and checklists

I envision that the manual will have chapters by country and region. The Taiwanese OpenStreetMap community, for example, might have specific examples and scenario templates for their region of the world. Plus, it is our hope that the manual will help people find best practices across the very topics and civic tech communities. We need to learn from each other. This Digital Humanitarian Handbook is for all of us to evolve and fork.


The Next Stage of Digital Humanitarians

The World Humanitarian Youth Summit is in Doha, Qatar this week (September 1 – 2, 2015). Students and young people under the age of 30 joined from over 80 countries around the world. They are here to consult on a number of key issues creating an outcome document with key recommendations. Last night the drafting team was up until 5am AST working to compile all the brilliant ideas. This work will be submitted as part of the larger global consultations to Reshape Aid.

It was my honour to join the Transformation through Innovation panel to share some thoughts on how people could get involved as Digital Humanitarians and how they could learn and lead with these skills. During my talk, I share some thoughts on how we could challenge the future to get young people more involved all around the world. See my slides and detailed notes for more information.


Thank you to Reach out to Asia, the World Humanitarian Youth Summit, and the Children and Youth Major group for welcoming me in their conversations. Also thank you to Chad Bevins, Mark Iliffe, Kathmandu Living Labs, Yantisa Akhadi, and Stace Maples for their photos about Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and OpenStreetMap activities around the world.


In their own words via Kasra

Nawaf Felemban
What does it take to be a successful local startup? If Nawaf Felemban, CEO of Kasra, is any measure the components are niche concept, vision, humility, technical acumen, mentorship and grit. Tonight Nawaf will be sharing some lessons at Doha Tweetups for their event feature on startups.

is a user-driven content site and community network focused on a myriad of topics ranging from fashion to technology. All the articles are created by a growing community of writers for each other in their own voice. Translation for non-arabic speakers like me: Kasra is the accent symbol in the Arabic language and means “break”. This speaks to their mission – get people comfortable and, dare I say, enthusiastic with sharing a wide range of community and user-driven content in Arabic. It is a “break” from the formal use of Arabic infusing every day people’s content of their own interest and own voice. All the content is in pan-Arabic neutral language to serve all the various dialects across the region.

What’s Under the Hood

Kasra was spun up with a minimal viable product (MVP) with a launch in May 2014. The goal to test out the idea was proven viable from the outset with 1000 Facebook followers within hours. Now their imprint is a over 1 million unique views per month (metric over 6 months). Add to this: They are the fastest growing website in the Arabic speaking world. Considering that the online market segment is 150 million people, they are in front of some serious opportunity to grow.

For technology, they started out with a WordPress site, but are currently building out the next version. The newer shiny Kasra is being built with node.js, react.js, Mongo db. They choose this platform for the (java script framework, optimized for asynconryous and scaleability )

A strong plan about social analytics and engagement are to their ongoing success. They have a number of tools and tactics in their toolkit. Nawaf suggests that startups use, at minimum, Twitter insights and Facebook Analytics. These engagement As Nawaf points out, basic tools like these plus big data tools for your customer usage tools will help measure reach and reveal strategic next steps.

Growing Talent

Kasra is growing talent within the community. By fostering a space to create compelling content, they are encouraging their contributors to become great writers and share best practices. They want to inspire the next generation of writers to share articles (even long form version) across the Arabic-speaking world.

Nawaf is building a strong team ethos by encouraging staff to take a leadership role in the industry while inspiring others around them to learn. Their strategy is two-fold: attract top talent and foster local talent. He said there is a gap with technical skills so while they focus on building their technical skills, they want to give back to others. Mentorship and community are core to the Kasra backbone. There is a gap of mentorship in the region. While he has located this for himself, 90 % of local entrepreneurs need the help. They need mentorship from people with actual entrepreneurship experience not just theoretical.

Here’s to seeing more startups learning from each other. Thanks Kasra for sharing your story about making it happen step by step.


Digital Humanitarians in Qatar

It is World Humanitarian Day today! Humanitarians make a huge difference in the lives of many people around the world. On this day that we honour these amazing people, we are starting a local Digital Humanitarian Community to support their efforts.

Doha skyline

Digital Humanitarians are a growing global network of people aiming to use their technology and social media skills to support humanitarians and affected communities. There are many communities within the Digital Humanitarian Network. Our goal is to encourage more participation from Qatar and the GCC. We will host local community events, training and support. Qatar has a high youth and very technical capable population. It is our hope that more people from Qatar will join and lead within the various communities.

We’ve created a mailing list to help you connect. (digitalhumanitarians-qatar@googlegroups.com ) Join us and stay tuned for more details. Please introduce yourself – your interests and why you are keen to learn.

This community is for you. We will provide spaces for technical and non-technical participation. Getting involved in your world is your journey. Digital Skills learned from Digital Humanitarian activities are directly applicable to your learning and your potential career. Plus, you will meet others from around the world who seek to make a digital difference.

There are a number of active Digital Humanitarians at Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) (based in Doha Qatar). We created Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response (AIDR) and MicroMappers to help people get involved in the world. Training and events will include data, maps, verification and software techniques. We will invite our local and global friends to help support your learning journey.

Upcoming Events

World Humanitarian Youth Summit

Our first big activity will be joining the World Humanitarian Summit – Global Youth Consultation to be held in Doha on September 1 – 2, 2015. The Reach out to Asia team has been working hard to bring over 450 young people from around the world. There will also be many participants from Qatar. Our team will host a booth at HBKU to share details about our work at QCRI and share how you can be a Digital Humanitarian. Please stop by and visit to learn more!


Recap: Virtual Reality at Google Developer Group – Doha

As I child, I loved to play with kaleidoscopes. It seemed like pure magic to put a box to your face and see colour and light design and change before your eyes. A sense of play in technology can lead to new startups and creative research science.

Last night Qatar Computing Research Institute hosted the Google Developer Group – Doha team for the Virtual Reality session. The night included an introduction to Virtual Reality, Google Cardboard and then a hands-on session with creating VR with Unity. Hadij Hicham and Sachin Kumar lead the training and are founders of GDG Doha. As always, it is a pleasure to have technical guests at QCRI to collaborate and learn.

Get involved:

GDG Doha

The next event is to be scheduled, so watch those spaces for more details.

Some photos from the night:

Google Cardboard at GDG

Sachin at GDG August 2015

Sachin and soliders

Sofiane and Ingmar with VR

Hicham on Google Cardboard

Sofiane testing Tech gdg

Yasine's son trying out Google Cardboard

Chen with the VR

Waqas Ajaz at GDG

Yacines son testing vr

Mufeed and Google Cardboard

Sachin and Hicham at GDG


There were 6 women in attendance too, I just missing getting a good action photo of their brilliance. All photos are CCBY.


Checking into the next stage of Digital Humanitarians

What does NEXT look like? Often as digital humanitarians, we are in the weeds of tasks. Many of us are still writing about the Nepal Earthquake Response and pondering how to improve and learn. With Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, I have my hands full with the Executive Director hiring process. And, at Qatar Computing Research Institute, we are testing a MicroMappers microtasking translation clicker with our friends over at Translators without Borders.

Last week Aspiration’s Willow Brugh held a casual Digital Humanitarian Checkin. In the conversation, each of the participants provided an update about themselves, their research, their technology and/or their digital humanitarian community. This checkin was special on a few fronts. First, many of us connect during times of crisis when we are super busy leading activations and onboarding new volunteers.


See the notes from our chats.
Some of the big themes were:

  1. Cross-community collaboration processes and tools
  2. Contributor Training and On-boarding
  3. Potential global meet-up for Digital Humanitarians

We need more regular activities to connect outside of emergencies. Thanks Willow for being the connector.

MicroMappers Global Map - Nepal Earthquake May 5, 2015
(Source: MicroMappers Global Nepal Earthquake response, June 2015. Created by Ji Lucas with Cartodb)

Digital Humanitarians in Qatar

I see blank spots on the map as a need to shift training and engagement. This is already happening, but for the next months, I am going to try to build a program in Doha. There are so many talented digital folks in Doha. I’d like to see them join the Digital communities. Certainly in speaking with some of them, I found a strong interest to learn.

World Humanitarian Youth Summit

If someone has the base digital skills, then they will remix it for local language, culture and needs. Plus, everything you learn is directly applicable to success in your career. Employees want digital savvy staff.

There is a buzz of activity in Qatar leading up the the World Humanitarian Youth Summit to be held in Doha on September 1 – 2, 2015. I’m hatching plans for digital activities to encourage more participation from Qatar residents and hopefully the GCC/MENA regions. Stay tuned.


Virtual Reality – Doha Google Developer Group

SciFi dreams come alive with research and technology tinkering! Doha’s Google Developer Group (GDG) and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) are hosting a Virtual Reality event on Monday, August 17, 2015. Tickets are going fast, so we hope you can join us.

It is exciting to see this technology find roots in Doha. Qatar University has a Virtual Reality Lab and QCRI’s team is doing some deep computer vision work with 3D and 4D. Our hope is that this event will help you get an understanding of how the technology works and how you might be able to make things.

About GDG:

Google Developer Groups (GDGs) are for developers who are interested in Google’s developer technology; everything from the Android, Chrome, Drive, and Google Cloud platforms, to product APIs like the Cast API, Maps API, and YouTube API.


Who Should Attend: The GDG is for your learning. We invite entrepreneurs, students, technologists and the curious.
When: Monday, August 17, 2015 17:00 – 20:00
Where: QCRI offices, 18th floor, Tornado Tower

How to Prepare:

Download these tools before you arrive and bring your laptop. Also, if you have some VR items or tips on resources, please do share. DOWNLOAD:


Please CLICK HERE to register in advance as there are limited spots available. Also, if you can’t attend, please let us know so that we can open up a spot.

Lastly, what is virtual reality anyway? Always turn to XKCD if confused.

XKCD Depth Perception

(Image: XKCD CCBY NC2.5)


Is there a Civic Tech Community in Qatar?

The Code for All Summit is in full swing in NYC this weekend. Civic technology friends and allies are meeting to brainstorm and create. Inspiring. Since I moved to Doha, I’ve been contemplating the role of citizen engagement, open source, digital humanitarianism and civic tech within Qatar. Qatar Computing Research Institute has a mandate to support the Qatar Foundation mission of a knowledge economy. Some of the programs I am creating include fostering and investigating social computing and ‘civic tech’ within the research ecosystem. In order to do this, I spent months as a participant observer asking myself: Is there a civic tech community in Doha? What exists and what is needed? If yes, what can I do to foster it?

web speaker by Mazil (Noun project) noun_108827_cc

Participating in local technology community found allies like Qatar Living, Doha Tweetups, Qatar Mobility Innovation Center (QMIC), Mada Qatar (Qatar Assistive Technology Cente) I Love Qatar, or the Google Developer Group. We have Drupal and Creative Commons meetups. There are entrepreneur spaces like ictQatar (Digital Incubation Center), Qatar Business Innovation Center and Qatar Science and Technology Park.
Some recent examples of Civic Tech like activities include:Media in Canvas – Al Jazeera and Challenge 22 . People are creating technology that could be deemed civic tech-like. But what of a Civic Tech Community?

Qatar is a relationship-based culture. There is a wealth of civic tech items to tackle: everything from lack of decent city maps, accessibility, traffic/pedestrian navigation and environmental issues. There are the beginnings of local engagement programmes like Tamm Volunteer Network:

Tamm, which means “consider it done” in Arabic, brings together the currently existing volunteer programs and initiatives in Qatar into one comprehensive online database. Through the Tamm portal (www.tamm.qa), young people can search for the volunteer opportunities of most interest to them, understand what they can expect from their volunteer experience, and learn about the many benefits that can be gained through volunteering.

During the Eid break, I enjoyed reading some new civic tech books: A Lever and Place to Stand: How Civic Tech can Move the World and The Internet is my Religion. Plus, I finally read the seminal book Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East. Each of these provide some insight in how to analyze and inspire civic technology. In the coming weeks, I will write more about what I think is happening in Doha and whether it fits into the ‘civic tech’ models. Thankfully Micah Sifry’s chapter“In Search of a Common Language” has some interesting methodology for this type of analysis.

Local techies that I meet speak warmly about how these social and civic tech events inspired them to solve real citizen issues. I believe that my mandate to foster social innovation research in Qatar starts with writing these types of bright spots.


Teaching Global Goals

Summer is in full swing in the northern hemisphere. Some of us are building lesson and program plans for the fall season. Perhaps you are starting to think about your own: “Back to School” mantra. This means priorities, activities, goals and objectives. Well, you are not alone. The United Nations will convene to review the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). The new goals will replace the Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) with the aim to reach more people with impact.

global goals

The UN Foundation is in Doha this week hosting a media training event for reporters from around the world. The goal is to encourage hyper-local storytelling focused on the SDGs. If the SDGs are going to really reach people, then media needs to be informed and included in the journey. It was great that Ooredoo is one of the hosts.

Aaron Sherinian and UN Foundation

So, as you plan your social good activities, take a moment to consider how you will action the SDGs? How will you activate these stories as digital humanitarians? And, how will you teach people in your communities? How will it influence your programmes? It really starts with us.

Sidenote: How did I not know about the Global Daily before? Seriously, news that matters.


But the UN is leaving no teaching unturned. In fact, they also are targeting children with the great big lesson.

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