The Future Of Crisis Data

Jonathon Morgan | Ushahidi | May 20, 2014

The excitement around big data for social good is palpable, and its capacity for change is enormous. However, in order to realize this capacity the humanitarian community needs to embrace a fundamental shift in the relationship between data and crisis.

Insights from massive datasets have revolutionized economics, marketing, transportation, and other for-profit industries, but crisis data gathering and analysis remains as fractured and chaotic as the disrupted communities it attempts to serve. Collecting information about a region experiencing disaster, conflict, or other humanitarian emergency is daunting and time consuming — even if you’re fortunate enough to stumble upon the loose cadre of volunteer gatekeepers trying to manage the mess. Sadly, even as good samaritans catalogue aid data and incident reports in an increasingly overwhelming spreadsheet diaspora, these types of static, silo-ed data are quickly out of touch with the rapidly changing reality on the ground, and subsequently irrelevant...