Ignite Talk: Jaroslav Valuch

This is a liveblog post from 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.

Jaroslav Valuch, of Ushahidi, explains the basis of the Ushahidi platform.

Valuch notes how the crisis mapping of Haiti began 5 hours after the earthquake; Patrick Meier and others started up in a living room, setting up an Ushahidi platform, and monitoring incidents being reported online and offline.

“Very soon after, we were sharing GPS coordinates and data with search and rescue teams and first responders,” Valuch states, “We immediately focused all of our efforts on processing incoming text messages; they needed to be translated, geolocated, categorized, and sent to first responders.”

Ushahidi worked with the US Coast Guard and US Marines, as well as other first responders.

“In the beginning, we were getting messages from people looking for their relatives,” explains Valuch.  “After that, it was food shortages, water shortages, then medical issues.”

“What was amazing about the project was not only crowdsourcing information on the ground, but also crowdsourcing volunteers,” states Valuch, “it was really a collaborative effort that engaged hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”

Valuch shares accolades from the US Marines and humanitarian responders.

He explains that from the beginning, it was important to find someone on the ground in Haiti who could run the project; in the end they found someone working on a similar mapping project, so instead of duplicating efforts, they shut down the Ushahidi installation and chose to support the existing efforts.

“What we need to focus on is empowering local communities to coordinate, and empowering them as first responders,” he concludes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.