ICCM 2010: Opening Remarks

Today I’ll be liveblogging the International Conference on Crisis Mapping at Tufts University.  You can also follow tweets from the event’s many open laptops at the #ICCM2010 hashtag.

Patrick Meier greets the audience, which is over 200 strong.  “The Crisis Mappers network now has almost 1,000 members in 30 countries; about 100 organizations are represented in this room,” he notes.  “This is truly an international network.”

Meier discusses the various ways that members of the network can collaborate (links can be found here).

“The responses to the disaster in Haiti was unprecedented,” remarks Meier, noting the various technologies used and the volunteer networks created, particularly those which involved students.  “In addition to student networks, we had about 2,000 volunteers from around 40 countries, mostly from the Haitian diaspora.”

Meier states that the unprecedented response creates a clear potential, adding that it is up to the people in this network to turn potential into reality.

“The question now is: How do we take these energetic, distributed, ad-hoc networks and allow them to interface in a more structured way with humanitarian organizations?”  Meier states that one idea is to set up a response network that includes both people from the crisis mapping network and seasoned humanitarian workers.

“It’s also important, in the context of this conference and beyond, is to realize that Haiti was and remains a clear outlier,” says Meier, noting the ease with which crisis mappers collaborated with Haitian government and other officials.  “Contrast this to crisis mapping projects in places like Pakistan, Sudan, Burma…”

“We should be inspired by the response to Haiti, but should not use this as our only model moving forward,” Meier reminds us.  “Senior policymakers recognize and want to address and take advantage of these opportunities, but they also recognize that challenges come with exploring these new ideas.”

Taking stock of the attendees, Meier notes that there are policymakers, representatives from NGOs, humanitarians, and volunteers from numerous prior events, such as those in Haiti and Chile.  He also notes the role of the research community in bringing lessons from this network and conference back to academia.

“This opportunity would not be possible were it not for every single one of you choosing to make time to be here now.  You are the conference,” concludes Meier.

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