Tag: #digihums


Co-creating and Celebrating Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

Maps connect us and tell stories. On Thursday, September 22, 2016, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team will convene for our 2nd annual HOT Summit in Brussels on the eve of the State of the Map conference. Both events celebrate OpenStreetMap and the community.

HOT Summit Logo

Top 5 Reasons to be at the HOT Summit

1. Leaders will share their map stories from around the globe

Check out the amazing programme of speakers from Indonesia, Canada, US, Tanzania and more.
HOT activation traininng in Jakarta

(Photo by Mhairi O’hara at the HOT Activation Workshop, Jakarta 2015)

2. Meet and build HOT and OSM together

The map is bigger than one individual. It is a community, a network of networks.

Bill Gates on OSM in Nepal Response May 5, 2015

3. Provide input into HOT’s future strategic planning

We are 6 year’s young and so much to do. Give us advice, take a task, share your experience, express your opinion. We will have many conversations and coffee conversations about the future of HOT. Help us co-create this strategy.

Road by BraveBros. from the Noun Project noun_106568_cc

(Image credit- Road by BraveBros. from the Noun Project)

4. Learn new skills from peers

The talent in this community to teach each other is amazing. Having an in person space to learn, ask questions, grab a side table to map makes the HOT Summit a space for everyone. Just ask. I am sure that we will find someone who can answer your questions or even learn a thing or two from you!

Mapping Nepal (photo by Gopinath Parayil))

(Photo for the Nepal Earthquake response by Gopinath Parayil)

5. Have fun mapping for change with your new friends

A few of the HOT community attended the World Humanitarian Summit. Many of us had not met before in person. Times of laughter and solidarity make all the difference.
HOT at WHS 2016

(photo for WHS 2016 using Heather’s phone)

Why join us?

How can we get to the next million participants creating the largest open map? How can improve everyone’s experience from novice to advanced? What are some of the project highlights from around the world?

Achieving our mission to help humanitarians and economic development with OpenStreetMap means widening the circle. Sure, we will talk fine details about mapping, but there is space for everyone to explore and contribute. Even if you are not a ‘mapper’, but are curious about open source and open mapping, then join us. We aim to improve the map and grow the global community. Over the past months, our team has been demonstrating how HOT can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and help humanitarians with Missing Maps. This action packed day has tickets available for 66.24Euro. (Register today!)


Empower Digital Skills & Literacy via Social Entrepreneurship

Hamad Bin Khalifa University is buzzing with creative ideas from young energetic social entrepreneurs. Reach out to Asia’s 8th Annual Empower event includes over 450 participants from around the region for workshops, talks aimed at fostering leadership and youth social entrepreneurship. Together with my colleagues from Qatar Computing Research Institute, Social Computing and Arabic Language Technology teams, we are here to share about research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Empower logo

Empower 2016 Workshops

Global Goals

Workshop 1: Digital Skills for Good

How can you learn digital skills for social good and humanitarian response? This skill-based workshop bridges three themes: social communications, social innovation and crowdsourcing. We partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to focus on Global Goals as guidance for social entrepreneurship activities.

We will conduct some exercises to explore data collection (keywords), online strategies, verification and visualization. Participants will be given resources to keep on learning after the workshop. We will focus on the global goals for climate action (#goal13), good health & well-being (#goal3) and affordable and clean energy (#goal7)

This workshop will be presented jointly by Heather Leson, Ji Kim Lucas, Irina Temnikova (QCRI) and Jennifer Colville (UNDP)

Workshop 2: Social Entrepreneurship: Improving Literacy in the Arab World through Ebooks for Children

In the workshop, participants will be introduced to the problem of improving literacy in the Arab world by bringing more interesting books into the hands of children. Using the newly developed Jalees Ebooks reader it will be demonstrated how technology opens the doors to new types of multimedia and interactive books. The participants will then enter a discussion on how social entrepreneurship could be applied to develop a library of interesting Arabic children books.

This workshop will be presented jointly by Wajdi Zaghouani, CMU-Q, and Stephan Vogel, QCRI. This topic falls under a number of Sustainable Development Goals, but Reduced Inequalities appears to be a good match. (#goal10)

Connecting youth to Social Impact, Entrepreneurship and Research

It is a true passion to help youth make a difference in their world on topics that matter. All around the Empower event there are great ideas from accessible parking spots with bar code alarms to Fishless (an intervention for Goal 14: Life Below Water), to Top Shabab (iread, Greenuse), to Education initiatives. Many of these programmes are youth driven. Our team at QCRI has been directly involved in capacity building and education for many years. We are here to share our knowledge and offer support to the flourishing community trying to make a difference in the world. And, who knows, maybe someday they will join the path of research for social impact. Thanks to the whole Reach out to Asia team for including us in this great event.

Empower Digital Skills for the SDGs and Social Entrepreneurship

We’ve tailored our workshop, which will be held on Friday, March 18th to inspire children from ages 16-26 to create programmes and social entrepreneurship aimed at solving big global issues one step at a time. See our slides with extensive notes.


Big Organizing for (Local to Global) Impact

“Volunteers are running complex teams, filling specialized work roles, just like professional organizers.”

Sound familiar? Micah Sifry’s interview of the core team of the Bernie Sander’s US election campaign truly resonated with me. The contributions to the campaign have already surpassed 2.5 million small and large volunteer activities. This includes Slack channels, special events, phone calls and online engagement. For years, many of us in the Digital Humanitarian/Digital Responder networks are at the cusp of growing from smaller boutique communities to wide spread growth. There were 1000s of us after the Haiti Earthquake growing to over 10, 000 after the Nepal Earthquake[1]. For those of us focused on big global change, the numbers of supporters and the volume of activities is massive. Yet, our collective digital activities can be even larger, more coordinated and more effective as we aim to focus and create solutions that matter.

Road by BraveBros. from the Noun Project noun_106568_cc

Each of the Digital Humanitarian communities are considering how to sustain growth, widen the circle to the next million, increase quality of activities, and be more inclusive (language, culture, region, and knowledge). Missing Maps is certainly a recipe for success with their regular mapathons, shared resources, partnerships, impact focus and large outreach networks. Since 2014, there have been 6,949 global-wide contributors to the OpenStreetMap based project. We also need to consider how to expand to meet all the global goals.

My primary career goal is to help people get involved in their world on things that matter. While there is not one formula or recipe, as an organizer and leader, I am super inspired by the Sander’s campaign playbook for how we can learn and grow the digital responder communities. As we consider the sustainable development goals and the outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit, these examples can help us shape useful implementation plans for a network of networks.

We need the World’s Largest Lesson for how to get involved and create within digital responder networks. We need many great big implementation plans. But, this is only after we consider how address the right issues in a directed formulated plan. The Sanders US election campaign has a clear goal and the implementation pathway seems somewhat straightforward. The tactics they use are collaborative, detailed and powerful. They have activities for small interventions/actions up to very large participatory volunteer roles. Brilliant. How can we look at our goals in the digital responder space and really work with all the stakeholders to localize and have impact? Well, the humanitarians are organizing to innovate.

Guide to Developing a local DRN

The complimentary activity is happening in the Digital Responder space. The recently published Guidance for Developing a Local Digital Response Network [DRN][2] provides pathways for local communities to learn from others then remix. Andrej Verity’s blog post announcement on this launch highlights the opportunities. Now, we need are workshops around the world, curriculum in many languages and a grand implementation plan.

Big organizing and small incremental interventions are needed to make substantial change. An intersection of time, will and skill exists. Now it needs to be nurtured with big organizing for local to global impact.

[1] There was not an exact census after the Nepal Earthquake across the Digital Humanitarian Network. I did an informal survey of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (over 8000), MicroMappers (about 2300) (QCRI), Standby Task Force (500) and then add all the other digital and local communities, including Kathmandu Living Labs.

[2] It was a pleasure to contribute input for the DRN guidance document. Congratulations to Jennie Phillips and Andrej Verity for this work.

[Image Credit: Road by BraveBros. from the Noun Project, ccby]


Building Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Innovation Spaces

Fostering ideas to full scale implementation is on many people’s minds in the Humanitarian Technology space. Yet, true sustainability and effectiveness can only happen with local knowledge, culture and partners. There is a convergence happening in the humanitarian space as technologists, humanitarians, businesses and governments are seeking better long-term ways to move past ‘little projects’ to healthier local engagement. The occasional marriage of entrepreneurs and humanitarian organizations is growing. We’ve seen the power of communities like Kathmandu Living Labs, Yellow House and global digital communities. How can we keep fostering these types of communal ideation spaces? Well, UNOCHA’s intern Kate Whipkey and Andrej Verity just published a report on: Establishing a Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Innovation Space. It was my pleasure to provide input into this important research.

Look and Feel via noun_149777_cc copy

” The Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Incubator (HEI) would be a partnership between humanitarian organisations and humanitarian entrepreneurs. Organisations host entrepreneurs within their office and provide resources and insight to them as they develop and implement an innovative product or service related to humanitarian response. This departs from a traditional incubator as a stand-alone entity and instead enables deeper collaboration between humanitarian entrepre-neurs and organisation staff.”

How will your organizational incorporate these learnings? Are you considering opening a Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Incubators (HEI)? We really need to convene all these actors mentioned in the research. What if a room of ‘doers’ or online forum could build out programmes to support civil society and NGOs? Would the technical companies support this? Could it be part of their CSR programmes or, better yet, have companies encourage employee sabbaticals to contribute as advisors and supporters for the local entrepreneurs? How can accelerators, incubators, labs, hubs and research institutes play a part?

In the conclusion of report: “As humanitarians worldwide engage in dialogue about changes to the humanitarian system, there is an opportunity to transform the way in which organisations respond, by adopting innovative practices that foster collaboration and ultimately contribute to building capacity. The growth of innovation spaces could signal a positive change that communities, entrepreneurs, and organisa-tions are teaming up to make humanitarian response even better.”

What does implementation look like?

With great interest, I read the UN Secretary General’s report for the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit. The research from this intensive consultation process indicates the need for strong ideas with funding legs to support the change from parachute technology to really locally driven service design. As the HEI report highlights, there are already many groups leading the charge. But it is my hope that we can foster more of this with local entrepreneurs supporting the needs of their communities. Plus, imagine the possibilities of ideas created in Kampala not only helping people in their city but also helping people in Phnom Penh.

From the Secretary General’s report:

“109. To this end, we need to embrace the opportunities of the 21st century. Capacities to prevent and respond to crises are now diverse and widespread. Community-level capacity in many crisis and risk-prone environments has increased. Technology and communications have given more people the means to articulate their needs or offer their assistance more quickly. Yet, international assistance too often still works in traditional ways: focused on delivery of individual projects rather than bringing together expertise to deliver more strategic outcomes. We operate in silos created by mandates and financial structures rather than towards collective outcomes by leveraging comparative advantage.”

The pieces are falling into place. Now, how can we implement changes and support the changes already in progress?

Honoured to have contributed to Establishing a Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Innovation Space incorporating on lessons and observations from RHOK, various social entrepreneurship zones plus being in an Accelerator programme with Qatar Computing Research Institute and Qatar Science & Technology Park.

[Image from the Noun Project (Look and Feel)]


How Digital Humanitarians Are Closing the Gaps In Worldwide Disaster Response

[Reposted from the Huffington Post, January 28, 2016]

It is now commonplace for people around the world to use social media during emergencies, and the volume of online information coupled with its rapid arrival is becoming increasingly overwhelming to humanitarian organizations. In response, digital humanitarians (individuals who participate in humanitarian relief online) have organized into skilled teams online to decipher the signals from the noise and thus provide accurate data. These teams work in partnership with formal humanitarian organizations using digital forensics, mapmaking, data mining, curation and open dialogue. Communication is now considered a crucial part of aid, and social media is part of this toolset. Even so, privacy, power and access are just some of the complex challenges that digital humanitarians must navigate when using these platforms in their work to help communities in need.


Seeking a way to “do something,” more and more people are answering the call to action on social media after each emergency. Digital responders or “digital humanitarians” immediately log on when news breaks about a natural disaster or human-created catastrophe. Individuals and teams “activate” based on skill sets of volunteer and technical communities (VTCs). These digital responders use their time and technical skills, as well as their personal networks in an attempt to help mitigate information overload for formal humanitarian aid in the field. The terms often used to define these contributors in the humanitarian space are remote help, citizen engagement, citizen response, localized community, civil society and global civic technology. Some participants are new to online humanitarian response, but have found a topic or location that drives their passion to get involved.

This surge of action by participants is often just as chaotic as the actual physical emergency response. People are compelled to work, at a dizzying pace, by the fact that many parties involved in first response require valid, urgent and usable data. Focused on the needs of the citizens in affected areas, informal and formal networks collaborate and sometimes collide in an effort to make sense of and identify needs or stories from this user-generated content. With a combination of will and skill, they create updated maps, datasets, information products, and even communities (both online and offline). The global growth of these activities is based on access to information, connectivity and language skills as well as digital literacy levels. These groups are making efforts to become more inclusive while respecting local language, culture and knowledge. The mantra of most digital responders is “support” not “supplant” local citizens, humanitarians and emergency responders.

The role of digital communities in humanitarian response has been well documented in the past few years, from the UN Disaster 2.0 report to the rise of the CrisisMappers Network and beyond. A starting point might be the use of online bulletin boards (BBS) and mailing lists in response to the tsunami in Asia followed by a parallel timeline for most small and large humanitarian and conflict crises since 2004. The tools and volume have changed over time, but the propensity to connect and potentially help occurs after each incident. The fact is that every day there is a local or global emergency happening somewhere (slow onset or immediate), and there is a flood of online communications that follows immediately afterwards. The high volume of news and citizen data saturates online spaces with such speed that accurate reports and priority items can become a blur. This user-generated content (UGC) comes in many forms: texts, photos, aerial and satellite imagery, videos and more. Digital responders learn and refine techniques with each response.

Humanitarian organizations and the citizens they serve are overwhelmed by the speed of change and the onslaught of information. In the five years since the Haiti earthquake, there has been a steady progression of change. Humanitarian groups have sometimes resisted incorporating social media into their information workflows. Often this is due to process changes, a lack of trust, concerns about accuracy and fear of change. People who create user-generated content are often considered outliers and have not yet gained the trust of leaders within official institutions. And having people in affected regions use these tools to help each other or ask for help changes the information flow from one-way to two-way. Humanitarian institutions simply adapt to change at a slower pace. They also have a low capacity to review information outputs and seldom have the funds to incorporate UGC into their processes. Plus, they often do not understand the tools and techniques these online/offline communities use to connect. The conundrum is that UGC and citizens are simply changing faster. As a result, this gap between the two groups is being tested and often fulfilled in new ways.

Across the world there are branded hubs, labs, fellowships, meetings, conferences and research. Governments, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are all working on various projects. How can these new voices and communities become part of the humanitarian apparatus? From Unicef Innovation to Ihub Nairobi, Kathmandu Living Labs to UN Global Pulse Jakarta, there are many new spaces where solutions have been observed and created. There is a parallel stream with groups like the Code for All community and other civic technology or humanitarian technology/research communities who aim to connect software developers, data scientists and designers to solve hyperlocal issues with official organizations. Code for All has grown from its base in the United States to Japan and beyond. Their goal is to connect local communities and governments with digital technologies and problem solvers for all issues. The intersection of these two movements is inevitable in risk-prone areas.

Digital Response Communities, Their Scope and Effectiveness

The Digital Humanitarian Network consists of many groups, from those that create maps, like Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and those who curate social information like Humanity Road and Standby Task Force, to those bridging language skills like Translators without Borders. Digital responders coalesce during an emergency to tackle tasks that can be large or small. For instance, over 2,800 people contributed to the Nepal earthquake response by doing small tasks such as using MicroMappers to make quick decisions about text or images. These curated information insights were used by over 250 organizations to make decisions about various needs for their response, including damage assessments and aid distribution. This example shows that UGC can be created by anyone, but someone still needs to parse the data, find the crucial points and match these items to needs and actions. After reviewing the IP addresses of contributors, Qatar Computing Research Institute observed that the majority of these digital MicroMapper helpers were from northern countries.

For the Nepal earthquake response, over 7,500 people contributed to improve OpenStreetMap in a short span of time. OpenStreetMap is the Wikipedia of maps, creating a large free and open dataset that anyone can use. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (a VTC) creates tools and training to support mapping for humanitarian response and economic development. The Nepal Earthquake response was co-lead by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and Kathmandu Living Labs. Kathmandu Living Labs, started in 2013, creates local data and map solutions and partnerships for Nepal. They have steadily built a local community of mappers trained to use OpenStreetMap, and they have mapped the country. Over the years, they have also built relationships with a range of local partners, from emergency responders to universities. When the Nepal earthquake struck, they lost their office and a day’s worth of work. Meanwhile, remote digital responders in the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) community activated. HOT, with the generous support of partners, obtained both pre- and post-disaster satellite imagery to determine the regions of Nepal that might be affected.

While they are informal, these networks are all driven by the common vision of UGC for humanitarian response. Simply put, they move fast and have the initiative to do what is most needful. For example, the OpenStreetMap Japan Foundation community translated the Guide to Mapping Buildings in Nepal from the Kathmandu Living Labs. Thus one former disaster-affected civic technology community activated to aid another, transferring skills and supporting digital needs. No government or formal institution advised that this was required; people simply self-organized based on digital responder knowledge and the desire to help their digital neighbours. While these processes are not yet seamless, the gap between official and informal is closing with each response.

Three Challenges

1. At the moment, the vast majority of social media is available via public posts. But with huge growth in private messaging tools like WhatsApp, how will digital response incorporate data from platforms like this?

2. In times of crisis, data becomes the lifeblood of managing humanitarian operations. But as access to data increases, how will people safeguard the privacy and security of those who need help?

3. What role should the main social platforms play during disasters? Can these social networks work together more closely to coordinate their responses?

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum sharing insights gained from surveying 5,000 digital media users from Brazil, China, Germany, South Africa and the U.S on the impact of digital media on society. The series is developed in conjunction with the Forum’s Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society project and the Forum’s Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online white paper. The series is running during the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2016 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 20-23). Read all the posts in the series here.


Delivering, Still Waiting

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
is hosting a Data and Technology Humanitarian Response Workshop this week. I’m delighted to attend on behalf of Qatar Computing Research Institute. This occasion gives me pause to reflect: Where is humanitarian technology going, what are the gaps, what are the new research questions, what is innovative, what needs remixing, what have we learned and what does implementation look like? Certainly, this burst of questions are not something a blog post can address. But, it is my expectation that smart people are working on these items and syncing up to collaborate is essential.

Humanitarian Innovation: Where is the parallel stream

In October, the World Humanitarian Summit held a Global Consultation in Geneva. There was an Innovation Marketplace with small NGOs, large NGOs, technology companies and Digital Humanitarians. Representing OpenAerialMap (OAM) on behalf of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, along with my colleague Nate Smith from Development Seed, I spent the day talking with our fellow presenters and some of the participants. A conference and marketplace/demonstration hall is never fully representative of what is happening globally in the field, but it was a snapshot of a certain view. Humanitarian Innovation Fund had a few of their successful projects demonstrating their work on exciting projects like 3D printing and our OAM (aerial imagery platform). There was a virtual reality space and some demonstrations. Catching up with Bob Marsh from Inveneo lit up this idea that parallel systems matter. I mention these small highlights because there was a distinct gap.

Occupy Your Reality (photo in Padua)

The Innovation Marketplace was not enough to actually represent or connect people doing true innovation in the field, including Humanitarian technology. Early summaries from the WHS cite more localized support and even digital training (the WHS Youth agenda). Where will the real work happen to 1. identify which innovations (specifically humanitarian technology) that need to be supported 2. build a plan to implement them. This is still super unclear for me. Innovators don’t wait for conferences or research papers to deliver. Sure, there is a keen eye on the high level conversations and a hope that there will be increased support for the various streams of activities. Negotiations will happen. People will write more reports. Yet, the world keeps turning. Simply put: some of the priorities, activities and innovations cannot wait for large NGOs and the UN to get on board. It is the hallways and community centers in small local spaces that will really do the shining.

If the observations and suggestions truly mean to deliver, it needs more strong support from business, NGOs, donors and you. Sitting in Geneva made me again realize that we need stronger parallel systems to succeed. We need a humanitarian technology roadmap. It would help to have local, multi-lingual side events online and in person focused on doing instead of more writing more reports. If we are really going to ReShapeAid, then it is time to dig in and build some true lightweight infrastructure to actually implement things that are needed. There are many activity streams which are truly critical with Transforming through Innovation is one small corner, but it is the corner I know well. Technology is not always the answer. But people use the internet, they create things and use their mobile phones. We need to reclaim “innovation” and “disruptive innovation“. In all the reports, bylines and marketing campaigns, it has gotten buried as a punchline rather than true grit. As Panathea Lee pointed out with User Centered Design, we need to be careful to not lose track of implementation and delivery.

Some of the research and implementation areas that I am excited about include: mobile (messaging), imagery (aerial, satellite), translation, citizen participation, edtech, citizen science, web of things, civic technology, open hardware, blockchain, and, of course, location. There are pockets of amazing innovation and technology coming from the UN and other organizations. But, we can do more with collaborative spaces. There is much to learn from the Open Source and Agile Startup models to really knock it out of the park on humtech (humanitarian technology). I am not stating that we hackathon our way to change, but the chasm between the technology communities, affected communities and humanitarians needs some strong coordinated planning and more delivering. How can we get more technology companies supporting the growth of humanitarian technology? If the humanitarian spaces and research institutes are slower, what are other ways to get things moving?

Example: Digital Technology & Digital Humanitarians (Responders)

Digital, volunteer/technology communities and civic technology communities are consistently delivering during emergencies. Some recent efforts include the Nepal earthquake, collaboration on the Ebola response and now the refugee crisis. There were many efforts that shine in this space of digital participation and response, but to name a bias few: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Standby Task Force, Missing Maps, NetHope (Tableau collaboration), PeaceGeeks (Service Advisor) and Kathmandu Living Labs.

Impact examples:

There are many more articles, reports, research articles and the like on the impact of digital humanitarians. However, what is missing is the bridge between proof of concept and real concrete sustainable support.

For the past 5 years, many digital humanitarians/digital responders have worked/volunteered alongside humanitarians and the NGO machine. Truly it is a gift that all these people volunteer their time, energy and skills to assist on the information overload and citizen engagement gaps that new technology like social media opens. Reading all the World Humanitarian Summit reports on the goals, needs and suggestions, I keep asking the question around Humanitarian Innovations – What will implementation look like?

We are not looking for a free ride, but what is going to take to open this door?

Volunteer and Technical Organizations have proven their impact and considered essential to the humanitarian information workflow. Some of those organizations setup small NGOs to support the large volunteer bases with lightweight documentation, staff and servers. The collaborative spaces are organically growing. Civic technology communities globally are connecting inside the digital humanitarian communities. One of my favourite examples was the support from the Japanese civic technology community of the Nepal civic technology community after the Nepal Earthquake. The Nepal OpenStreetMap guide for identifying buildings was translated into Japanese to support remote mapping efforts.

Considering the small corner of potential that humanitarian technology can deliver for affected communities and humanitarians, it is time to rethink how we can collaborate using the best of minds, best of technology and some sheer grit. We need spaces like the Digital Humanitarian Network in many parts of the world with local language, local knowledge and local culture. While digital humanitarians is one example, there are many other humanitarian innovations that do not get the financial support they need to really succeed. The donor model is set up for traditional NGOs. Some of these digital organizations don’t completely qualify as social technology companies/social entrepreneur startups. Fortunately, there are some bright spots like the Humanitarian Innovation Fund or the various NGO supported Hubs/Labs that are supporting some local humanitarian technology. But how do we get more concentrated humtech accelerators and donors for bright innovations? If digital humanitarians are not NGOs and not social entrepreneurship businesses, what is the long term sustainability?

[Disclosure: I am on the Board for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and PeaceGeeks. Previously, I worked at Open Knowledge and Ushahidi. For Crisis Commons in 2010, I did a short research project about the innovation community. And, I am part of the event team at CrisisMappers. Currently I work at Qatar Computing Research Institute]


Mapmaking for Good in Qatar

Maps are critical for logistics in humanitarian response. We are excited to invite you to the second Digital Humanitarians in Qatar event on Sunday, November 29, 2015. In this session, we will talk about the power of maps and location data using examples from various Humanitarian Emergencies. We will introduce you some basic components of mapping share how you can even add social media data to maps. Qatar Computing Research and Qatar Red Crescent are co-hosts of this event. Our special guest is Sajjad Anwar of Mapbox and the OpenStreetMap community.

To learn more and register, click here Event is Sunday, November 29, 2015.

map of qatar

Event Details

Dates and times: November 29, 2015 16:30 – 18:30pm AST
Location: Qatar Red Crescent Headquarters, 1st floor, Al Salata (Doha)
(Parking is near the old Movenpick Hotel)

Digital Humanitarians and CrisisMapping Agenda
  • How Qatar Red Crescent uses Maps – Qatar Red Crescent
  • Introduction to Map tools and Remote Mapping – Heather Leson, QCRI
  • Overview of Mapbox and OSM – Sajjad Anwar, Mapbox
  • Introduction to MicroMappers and Leaflet – Ji Lucas, QCRI
  • Map exercises (in Arabic and English)

QRC-QCRI Co Branded Logo


Crisis Communications Shifted – How will you adapt?

Did you feel a shift in global Crisis Communications this week? How is your organization, community and country preparing for how citizens receive and use emergency messages? People will use what they know and on platforms with their trusted networks. For 1 billion people, this may very well be Facebook with their Safety Check Feature. Facebook has some policies to refine, a plan for SMS outbound messages/Messaging systems and some good will to build with responsible data. All in good time. I’m sure they are on the case now. But, in general, we need to think globally. What are the trusted platforms/communications methods in which areas of the world and what does this mean for crisis communications?

Living in Qatar has been an experience in reconsidering the “majority” world use of communications. As noted in my Report from the Qatar Red Crescent Disaster Management Camp, participants used social media but WhatsApp was their primary tool. I’m part of the Social Computing team at Qatar Computing Research Institute. We are researching to use machine learning and human computing during humanitarian emergencies. This is currently using Twitter data, but in Qatar, Twitter is the less prominent tool for interactions. The Northwestern report on MENA Media Use 2015 really highlights these differences. Emergency managers are still trying to adapt to Social Media incorporated into their workflows. How will the next stage of online communications change emergency response?

Think Again: Tech and Media Outlook 2016 (Michael Wolf)

Last week Michael Wolf shared this comprehensive analysis on the future of communications and media. Planning means seeing these changes and adapting your global and local crisis communications strategies. For example, Michael Wolf notes in his presentation, Messaging will surpass online communications by 2018. Facebook has a partial corner on this market with WhatsApp:

Activate Michael Wolf on Messaging
(Slides 16 – 17)

Perhaps this is where Digital Humanitarians can help with training in local communities to be “CERT” for online help. One idea I’ve been considering is a Digital Humanitarian programme of Online Messaging Ambassadors existed in civic technology spaces around the world (Labs, hubs, technical spaces and coworking spaces). One thing is for certain, the shift means that planning is needed. From a research point of view, we simply don’t have visibility into how people use Messaging for response. We have qualitative examples, but with a closed system (rightfully so), it is hard to make conclusions on use and effectiveness.


Why Youth are core to #ReShapeAid

Dear Digital Humanitarian allies, the United Nations Children and Youth Major Group have big ideas. Let’s help them make these happen. They embedded the need for digital skills into the Doha Declaration which then informed the World Humanitarian Summit Synthesis Report. Over the past months, I have closely followed and met these amazing leaders. Their sessions in Doha for the World Humanitarian Youth Summit followed by their participation in the World Humanitarian Global Consultation in Geneva, has shown the true power of youth. And, frankly, they have written Digital Humanitarian strategic plan that we should help them implement. Roll up your sleeves, while the talking continues leading up to the Summit, there is no need for any of us to wait.

Read the whole Doha Declaration report.

WHS Synthesis - Youth Priorities 2015


These are just some examples of statements. I find the whole report really inspiring. While many of the topics discussed, here are some key statements that resonated with me:

“Develop specific data collection tools and train young volunteers in affected communities to collect, monitor, and report data that will inform country-­‐level preparedness and response standards. Disaggregate data in conflict or
crisis stricken areas by sex, age, and socio-­‐economic, as well as other status so that the situations of youth can be

“Innovative Tools for Local Capacity and Participation Foster communication via robust and portable technologies at the local level to facilitate collaboration and engagement of different humanitarian actors (e.g. telemedicine, e-­‐learning, phone applications).”

“Enable safe learning spaces to raise awareness on preventative safeguards and measures to disaster response, strengthen resilience, and promote participatory action (e.g. virtual disaster simulation, meetups).”

“Encourage online and offline peer-­‐to-­‐peer exchange to share knowledge, skills, culture and trade to collectively build resilience through interactive media and art.”

Make use of technologies such as mapping, web-­‐-­‐based platforms, social networking, and others to build partnerships,engage youth in early-­‐warning, promote reciprocal action, and coordinate efforts of different humanitarian actors.”


Many of us have youth engagement plans for NGOs and Digital Responders, but just take a look at some of their additional core priorities. Let’s spend the next months helping draft plans to make these items happen. How can each Digital community consider these items as part of their plans? How can funders/donors plan for this? What role can companies play? I’m hosting Digital Humanitarian training classes in Doha because we need local knowledge for local action.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how groups and organizations can help build plans. And, for the members of the Children and Youth Major group = please keep up the great work. Policy negotiation is hard, but you have a voice and a plan that can thrive with passion and action.


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. 

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