GuideStar International's Blog

July 23, 2012

Technology, Data, and Indian Nonprofits: Enabling Philanthropy

By Keisha Taylor, communications manager at  TechSoup Global & for its GuideStar International program. This was first posted on the blog

 Technology product donations, training, and nonprofit data are all part of TechSoup Global’s offering to civil society in India. Our BigTech program is run by our local partner, the NASSCOM Foundation in India. And the GuideStar India program was launched by our partner, Civil Society Information Systems (CSIS) India, through our GuideStar International program.

Nonprofits throughout India are now benefiting by getting high visibility and access to information and technology for their work.

 According to the Indian Central Statistical Office, there are 3.3 million NGOs in India. While the estimated number of operational NGOs is about one-third of that, there is little transparency on their activity.

GuideStar India is increasing the visibility of the nonprofit sector to multiple stakeholders by providing reliable information on more than 2,500 NGOs. It is also encouraging nonprofits to become better at reporting on their activities. GuideStar India is connecting the nonprofits on their site with those who need their help or want to lend support.

For example, the Surf Excel India’s Back to School Campaign reached out to needy children who go to learning centers and schools run by NGOs. Their Facebook campaign page engaged more than 800,000 fans during the campaign and sensitized them to the needs of poor children.

Their posts on Facebook also highlighted how fans could easily make a difference. The campaign gave exposure to 168 NGOs and raised 125,000 rupees in addition to in-kind donations.

GuideStar India put the Surf Excel team in touch with Child Survival India to provide essential teaching and reading materials to schoolchildren. The materials were donated by another school run by one of their Facebook fans.

Nonprofits in India are realizing that putting up their data voluntarily on GuideStar India can bring them resources and capacity-building opportunities. And donors and institutions looking for nonprofits find it convenient and efficient to access nonprofit information and connections through GuideStar India.

According to Fatima Lawrence, president of Lakkasandra Ashwini Mahila Sangha, a nonprofit featured on GuideStar India, “Opportunity knocks at your door only once, but GuideStar India knocks at your door again and again until you grab the opportunity!”

GuideStar India is also helping NGOs take advantage of the BigTech program and NASSCOM Foundation’s supportive technology activities.

Usha Pillai, chairperson of the IDEA Foundation, said, “Soon after being a part of GuideStar India, we got to attend an IT workshop conducted by NASSCOM Foundation. Our presence on the GuideStar India and a social networking site has helped us to get an industry donor looking for a small NGO. It is a phenomenal long-term value from GuideStar India to a small NGO like ours within a few months.”

Technology donations have also transformed nonprofit operations. The Hunger Project India helps those affected by hunger and victimized by social suppression in six Indian states. To help sustain their activities, they rely on accurate data monitoring and reporting.

However, data processing and collaboration were difficult because they used non-licensed and outdated software. Absence of effective antivirus applications slowed their computers, and there was limited uniformity and standardization in their infrastructure.

The Hunger Project India registered for and received a BigTech donation of Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Upgrade, Office Professional Plus 2010, and QuickHeal antivirus software.

Today, they use Microsoft Access for their data evaluation and database management. Microsoft Excel helps in preparation of their financial reports and accounting. Moreover, Quick Heal antivirus eliminated the viruses and resulted in a faster and more efficient functioning of the organization.

Bharani Sundarajan, program officer at The Hunger Project, said, “Participating in the BigTech program has had a positive outcome as it helped us maintain uniform and streamlined operations, along with being a time and energy saver. We are thrilled to be associated with it.”

Through its partners in India, TechSoup Global’s support to Indian NGOs is helping them to use and benefit from technology. Data on Indian nonprofits is also proving invaluable for visibility, transparency, and effectiveness of the sector.


April 30, 2012

Building Better Solutions Together, Faster

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 12:56
Tags: , , ,

You’ve probably heard about hackathons, but have you heard of the ‘Weekend Movement’? Glenn Fajardo at TechSoup Global talks about the Weekend movement that is gathering steam in Malaysia in a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review post. It is describes it as “a community of people that builds crafty projects and innovative solutions to real-world problems over weekends.” So you can imagine that though hacking is a part of it, this is much more that a data hackathon. There are Makeweekends  and Changeweekends too. It is another example of how communities, nonprofits, and the technical community can work together to solve pressing problems. You can read more it the post in the SSIR review here. Please feel free to comment!

September 22, 2011

Mediating Voices And Communicating Realities

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 09:19
Tags: , , , ,

By Keisha Taylor. This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

This report by Evangelia Berdou speaks about the benefits of using open source tools like the Ushahidi platform and OpenStreetMap. It examines the use of open source, open data, crowdsourcing, and digital media more generally in the developing world. The way in which use of such technology can change relationships between producers and consumers of information is highlighted. It suggests that this can empower communities.

However, the report also examines the obstacles that arise in implementing projects that use such tools. It examines the ways in which they could negatively affect marginalised and vulnerable populations. A study of Map Kibera, a community information platform that utilises OpenStreetMap in Kenya aids analysis. The report also briefly examines community mapping initiatives in Peru and Georgia and SMS reporting in Egypt and Haiti.

Packed with interview excerpts and useful analysis, it provides insight into the use of open source technology in developing countries. The report says that if open source tools are to be used effectively:

  • Education and training are important
  • There is a need to build awareness of why the tools are useful and how they will benefitcommunities.
  • It must be truly inclusive of citizens
  • Mutual trust and transparency must exist

Potential problems identified with the use of open source crowdsourcing platforms and open mapping data initiatives include:

  • Questions surrounding the use of crowdsourced information: “Many of the questions concerning the character of crowdsourced data and their place in the evidence chain touch upon fundamental ethical issues of journalism,social science and action research, but involve new capacities, networksand practices that have yet to be systematically explored.”
  • Uncertainty surrounding the agendas and values of those that advocate for the use of such tools. It was pointed out that “The ease with which these platforms can be deployed means that marginalised groups may be viewed simply as data sensors, cheap sources of hard to get information.”
  • Risks introduced because of the increased and global visibility of local and vulnerable communities supported through these tools.
  • Difficulty in promoting the use of such initiatives for policy and advocacy: “The greatest challenge, for them (involved in Map Kibera), laynot in the production of the map but in promoting the use of the map in policy and advocacy”.

However, this should not devalue the benefits of open source technology in developing countries. As the use of Ushahidi in Haiti has illustrated it is beneficial for many in times of crisis.  Inter-governmental Organisations (IGOs) United Nations and governments are exploring ways in which such tools can be used to further development. Interestingly, the report also notes that “the commercialization of open source software has generated insights on how altruistic motives for participation can coexist with more selfish, individual goals.”  However, as this report reveals, more needs to be done to ensure that it is used informatively, effectively and appropriately. It must be used in a way which supports yet protects the marginalised and vulnerable.

See the full report here:

Mediating Voices And Communicating Realities: Using Information Crowdsourcing Tools, Open Data Initiatives, and Digital Media to Support and Protect the Vulnerable and Marginalised

July 19, 2011

Don’t Be Fooled by Abstract Jargon: Internet Governance and ICT Policy Affect All of Us

Filed under: ICT for Development,internet governance — guidestarinternational @ 14:01
Tags: ,

by Keisha C Taylor

Most civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens don’t use high-level jargon such as “Internet governance” and “ICT policy.” For them, it’s about having reliable and fast Internet access; accessing health care services via mobile in rural areas; voicing views online without fear of persecution, not having useful services blocked by Internet service providers (ISPs), not being exposed to cyberbullying, or fearing to become a victim of online fraud.

The Internet, and technology as a whole, is so intertwined with day-to-day life that the decisions made by governments and corporations directly impact how we use the Internet and how CSOs work — now and in the future.

International Economic and Policy Stakeholders Recognize the Internet’s Increasing Role

Trends in mobile phones, social media, cloud computing, open data, e-government and e-governance, new applications, and open and developing Internet standards have increased the importance of ICT to multiple actors, which include CSOs. However, with Internet use also come problems such as cybercrime, lack of data privacy, and data security. Influential international economic players have also realised this, and the importance of the Internet to the economy, and have organized several meetings on these issues:

Not convinced yet? Here’s more evidence

The importance of the Internet is recognised in such forums and should not be ignored by the wider civil society that has helped to drive its development so far.

CSOs and Internet Users Need to Get Involved

It is difficult to predict how the Internet will evolve as new services are introduced and more individuals and institutions from remote areas and developing countries come online.

However, as we continue to rely on the Internet for socio-economic development, increasingly for routine tasks, and in some cases survival, it becomes more important for all to improve digital literacy, help others learn how to use technology effectively and better educate ourselves about such policy issues. We also have to engage with other CSOs and other stakeholders on these issues.

Civil society organisations and users should assume a bigger role in ensuring that they inform and influence decisions being made nationally and internationally, and the Internet and related technology can be used to ensure that they do.

July 4, 2011

A Review of the Guardian ACTIVATE Summit (London)

by Dinesh Venkateswaran, Manager – Global Data Acquisitions, TechSoup Global

Guardian’s ACTIVATE is an annual conference that aims to bring together leaders in Media, Government and Technology to activatedly discuss approaches to addressing nagging challenges of the current times (including the grand ones of poverty, dictatorship and natural disaster). This time on 22nd June at King’s Place in London, ACTIVATE’s assemblage of personalities included senior bureaucrats, executives in multilaterals and high-impact entrepreneurs in the social media space, mostly from the western world and Africa, besides others. Being a novice in the Third Sector, my interest in this conference was mainly about the opportunity it gave me to hear leaders in the sector discuss the challenges faced at the grassroots level; the most fundamental problems that people in less favourable environments face and how we could help solve them. However, the surprise was: regardless of the stated topics of panel discussions, the most prominent and recurring theme debated at the conference emerged to be: value of data in ‘saving the world’.

As towering a proposition as that may sound, the data theme seemed the most natural direction that each of the eight or so panel discussions could take; the most fundamental of considerations that united the eminent panellists’ individual professional pursuits. Ironically, it kept me interested in the discussions, and, I believe, helped broaden my perspective of how we could potentially employ data towards triggering social change, great and small. Broadly, the topics discussed included democracy, value of mobile technologies, distribution of power and wealth, transparency in data and governance, profiting from social change projects and access to data and tools. Below are some quotes from the conference:

  • “Connection technologies could and should disrupt and redistribute power… If you are a control freak you are in the wrong century”: Alec Ross, Senior Adviser to US Secretary of State, speaking on Open Governance
  • “(In Africa) the race is on to find what mobiles can do in areas as disparate as public health, governance and education”: Rakesh Rajani, Tweweza, talking about the potential dramatic impact of the mobile phone in Africa in the next five years
  • “Vision is just as important as technology”: Ricken Patel of talking about how focus on technology many times eclipses the social goal.
  • “It’s not about technology, it’s finally about who uses it and how”: Ken Banks of Kiwanja and the tendency of social media people to get preoccupied with technology.
  • “15% of UK population hasn’t experienced the Internet even once”: Martha Lane Fox, UK Government’s Digital champion, on ‘access to all’ being critical to achieving equality in society.
  • “I freak out hearing people talk about using mobiles for ICT for development in Africa… we in Africa are not different from the rest of the world… we like to buy mobile phones to have fun, talk to friends, listen to music, tweet and connect on Facebook”: Ory Okolloh, Google’s Head of Policy and Government Relations, Africa.
  • “Leadership must be strategic… should enable power in members and facilitate a global impact of highly local activity”: Jeremy Heimans, Purpose, Australia, while he argued that micro payments are a better funding model than plain charity, for social change projects.

Storify has published a summary of tweets from the conference, if you are interested in knowing more of what people said. On the core themes of the conference, many examples of successful social entrepreneurship were presented, including the KickStarter for crowd funding, Jolitics for online activism, Palindrome Advisors to accelerate professional managerial involvement in philanthropy, Beatbullying for empowerment of children, Twaweza’s information brokering for social change in Tanzania, and the MyFarm project that enables about 10k internet denizens collectively run a farm. There was a short and informative film, too, titled Up in Smoke, on sustainable and innovative farming, which I enjoyed very much. The role of technology in these initiatives varied largely, but there was one thing common to them – the huge role of people in powering the initiatives.

Personally, though, the summit helped me realise that we should not only extract and visualise insights from raw data but must also develop the skills needed to tell the stories that need to be told through data. That simply was the lingering message that remains.

May 24, 2011

Data, Data Everywhere — But How Does It Relate to You And Your Work?

By Keisha C Taylor

As Internet and mobile access grows, more data is made open online. It is being used and analyzed by the media, the private sector, governments, and civil society organizations to inform their decisions. Open data, real time data, and linked data are being discussed in many forums. And so are the ways in which governments, civil society organizations, and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) can work with the private sector to benefit the public using the data analysis. Data-related events are highlighting the value of data and are addressing technical, design, political, reliability, validity, and inclusion issues that arise with its disclosure.

An interactive example of data visualisation - OECD Better Life Index © OECD (2011)

Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist, says “The ability to take data — to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it — that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.”  This post highlights some of the organizations that are involved in this type of work and points to some of the forums discussing this topic.

The European Public Sector Information Platform has a great list of open data events. And for those of you interested in open government data events, have a look at the events calendar that is being updated by the Open Knowledge Foundation. A London-based nonprofit, Open Knowledge Foundation is at the forefront of promoting open knowledge to help citizens and society.

A few of the many notable events are:

These kinds of events, however, still tend to be dominated by the technology geek, statistician, and government official though civil society organizations and other organizations involved in cultural fields are also exploring the potential of using open data. For civil society organizations on the sidelines of this data movement, the everyday media’s use of data for reporting provides a practical demonstration of just how useful it can be. (I would recommend having a look at some really cool videos featured by Stanford on Journalism in the Age of Data.) Many eyes not only provides visualizations but a forum for anyone to upload data and create visualizations and Flowing Data illustrates how designers, programmers, and statisticians are making good use of data . A few practical examples of the use of data for reporting are listed below.

These are just a few of what are arguably limitless examples how data is being used to help us understand our world. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in London recently hosted the workshop “Civil Society 2.0: how open data will change your organisation and what you can do about it,” and the presentations have been made available online. If indeed “Data is the New Oil,” civil society organizations (CSOs) should be learning how to generate, find, and use data to help inform and improve their work. The appropriate use of data can help all CSOs to advance the overall well-being of individuals and their local communities.

May Net2 Think Tank Round-up: Improving Lives in Rural Communities with ICTs

May 17th marked the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD). To celebrate, NetSquared used this year’s WTISD theme, “Better Life in Rural Communities with ICTs” to guide their Net2 Think Tank question for May and there was a tremendous response from many members of the public. Individuals working with nonprofits, academics, librarians and entrepreneurs  based in countries around the world responded. NetSquared had some of their best Net2 Think Tank responses to date!

Specifically, they asked you to share your ideas for closing the digital divide for people living in rural areas all around the world. The responses have been compiled and is now available on the NetSquared blog.

Topic: How can the lives of people living in rural areas be improved using ICT? What are your tactics and best practices for helping rural communities using web or mobile technology? And, which projects are already doing this well?

Also while this month’s Net2 Think Tank is now closed, you’re always welcome to add your feedback on the subject at the bottom of the NetSquared blog post.

May 12, 2011

Shouldn’t the Word Phone be Removed from Mobile? – The Use of the Mobile by Nonprofits for Development

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 08:32

Photo: Sascha Pohflepp under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic

by Keisha Taylor

Can you remember when a huge mobile phone was a brand new and exciting phenomenon and something that only a privileged few were within reach of… a device only seen on TV! Times have changed. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reported that this year there are over 5 billion mobile subcriptions. It is also not only used for talking at all and I’d suggest that the word ‘phone’ be dropped from its title. The mobile phone (henceforth to be referred to as the mobile in this post) is an important ICT tool for the nonprofit sector not only in the developed world, but even more so in the developing world where access to the Internet may not be very readily available and where innovative uses are being found for the technology all the time.  A vast majority of these mobile users are in emerging and developing countries and many have leapfrogged the use of landlines to focus on developing the use of mobiles and the mobile Internet. As the mobile make waves in the nonprofit world, I thought it would be good to highlight a few examples of its uses and briefly examine its potential. Nonprofits in the developed world can also learn a lot from what is happening elsewhere.

So what else can you do with a mobile?

  • Short Message Service (SMS)
  • Bluetooth
  • Camera
  • Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
  • Email
  • Games
  • Radio
  • MP3 player
  • Video
  • Banking
  • Print pictures
  • Get directions
  • Have your text messages read back to you
  • Scan in a business card
  • Text message a landline phone
  • Alarm clock
  • Get general information
  • VoIP
  • Purchase goods

Though the list above includes mobile Internet related services, some of the mobiles being used in the developing world are the most basic, and may not have some of these features. It must be noted that according to the ITU Internet user penetration has reached approximately 9.6% in Africa. Average world penetration is 30% and the average for developing countries is 21%. However, the mobile, a small device, which is capable of having all of these facilities and can be carried in our pocket or bag at all times, will eventually be the primary way to connect to the Internet. Furthermore, it is the ability to utilize these features for multiple purposes that makes the mobile even more important, particularly where access to the Internet is problematic, and the nonprofit world can and should learn more about its usage to better serve the public.

So how can nonprofits utilize mobile phones for their work? There are many examples of the benefits of the mobile in emerging and developing economies in Asia and Africa.  When resources are scarce our ability to find useful and innovative ways to use available technological tools for what we need increases and the mobile is no exception. It is an extraordinary example of one of these tools. Should availability, access and service improve so will innovation. Developing countries are examining ways to use mobiles and nonprofits can help to spur this along. Frontline SMS’ and Ushahadi’s collaboration is an example of this.

Here are just a few of the many examples of how the humble mobile is being used for development:

  • For those nonprofits working on agricultural issuesThe Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (Kace), provides crop growers with the very latest commodity information via SMS and has helped farmers to quadruple earnings.
  • For those nonprofits working on political engagement issues/activism – When media bans were put in place at the end of Musharraf’s rule in Pakistan SMSall, or as its founder Umar Saif, says “Twitter for SMS,” or “Twitter for the 4 billion”. (Today I can say Twitter for the 5 billion!) was used to help find missing political dissidents. Today there are over 150,000 established groups on SMSall in Pakistan.
  • For those nonprofits working on health issues – In Uganda the Electronic Mobile Open-source Comprehensive Health Application (eMOCHA) has been developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education and it enables health workers to build HIV awareness and provide prevention information in rural areas.
  • For those nonprofits working on sustainable development issuesNextDrop uses mobile technology to monitor and improve water flow in urban India and subsequent sustainable development.
  • For those nonprofits working on economic issues – In Kenya, the M-Pesa mobile banking service is the most popular way to transfer money via mobile. This is important for Diaspora groups. They can also use it to pay bills and purchase goods.
  • For nonprofits working on fundraising Comic Relief in the United Kingdom raised over £7m from text message donations in 2011.
  • For nonprofits seeking to increase supporters/volunteers – Using the text message “Don’t you wish your city was cleaner and greener? Begin by planting free saplings offered by Greenpeace. Reply GREEN to 6363 to get your sapling.” to 40,000 mobile subscribers in Bangalore and Pune, India  Greenpeace got 937 text backs and 149 new supporters.

A Mobiles for Development, global research study commissioned by UNICEF has found that in India upon achieving a critical penetration rate of 25%, every 10% increase in penetration resulted in a 1.2% increase in a state’s economic growth. The same report mentions a study by Ericsson and Zain, which revealed that a 1% increase in mobile penetration in Sudan caused a 0.12% increase in the country’s GDP growth rate, partly because of an improved flow of information which improved the productivity and efficiency of small businesses. According to the report the mobile has “helped reduce vulnerability and increase opportunities, improve social empowerment, reduce the need to undertake costly and sometimes dangerous travel, increase access to health and education services, as well as create more employment and business opportunities”. As more reports unveil the humble mobile’s benefits, nonprofits at home and abroad should try to better understand and where necessary develop and incorporate the use of mobiles to support their work and by extension the public. You can read more about developments in the mobile sector from Mobile Active, (a project of the Nonprofit Technology Network, pending nonprofit status in the United States) that is doing a great job bringing to our attention some of ways in which mobiles are being used to promote development.

So what does the future hold for the mobile and its potential for use by the nonprofit sector? Waceke Mbugua, M-Pesa’s Marketing Manager predicts that the mobile application craze in the developed world may skip Africa because of costs. According to him it costs too much money to partner with a mobile carrier there and many don’t want to work with developers.  Notably he says “greater business and user opportunities lie in mobile cloud computing. You’ll see growth in the mobile Web, applications that run on a browser,” as African cloud computing services “are going to explode.”  Legislation is also being passed in some countries to limit the sending of unwanted emails, texts and calls by imposing huge fines. However, one thing remains certain. The importance of the mobile will continue to grow and nonprofits not only in the developing world, but also in the developed world will have to increasingly use them as an important ICT tool for their work.

April 11, 2011

Enter to Win the European Open Data Challenge

This was first posted on the NetSquared blog

Are you interested in using open data for good in Europe? The Open Data Challenge is designed to encourage interesting ways of reusing public data for the benefit of European citizens.  The competition encourages anyone from programmers to non-technical idea-makers to help create a useful app using public data.

Do you have a great idea? Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Ideas – Anyone can suggest an idea for projects which reuse public information to do something interesting or useful.
  • Apps – Teams of developers can submit working applications which reuse public information.
  • Visualisations – Designers, artists and others can submit interesting or insightful visual representations of public information.
  • Datasets – Public bodies can submit newly opened up datasets, or developers can submit derived datasets which they’ve cleaned up, or linked together

The Open Data Challenge is open between now and June 5. Enter your ideas to win one of several cash prizes!

April 8, 2011

Mobilizing Online Communities in the Face of Disaster: Tips from NetSquared Local Organizers

This post was originally posted on the NetSquared Blog by Alicja Peszkowska, Network Coordinator, Community-Driven Innovation at TechSoup Global

On the 12th of March, one day after the tragic earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan Ichi – Hiroyasu Ichikawa – the NetSquared Local organizer from Tokyo sent an e-mail to our NetSquared Local Organizer listserve asking for the best practices for mobilizing online communities in the time of a disaster. In the weeks that have followed, Ichi’s e-mail provoked a series of responses from all over the world. In this post, we hope to voice many of the tools, resources, and tactics that have been shared, in hopes of encouraging others around the world to get involved with the digital relief efforts.

In response to Ichi, Paula Brantner from the Washington DC Local group suggested taking advantage of the international project called Crisis Commons that sprung into action after the recent Haiti earthquake. Crisis Commons is specifically designed to crowd source the technology needed to leverage communications in the event of a disaster, it helps in finding volunteers and is summing up all of the hand-on actions designed to support the cause.

Amy Sample Ward from the New York group has followed Paula’s e-mail with further suggestions on how and where to aggregate information. One of the online spaces she mentioned was the Google Crisis Response page where you can find the latest information about the crisis as well as make simple donations to the organizations involved in supporting the efforts in Japan. She has also provided the link to the Wikipedia page devoted to the 2011 Tokyo earthquake and tsunami. This resource is an important point of reference for everyone interested in the latest events related to the tragedy, as it has been visited and edited by a lot of people and therefore appears high in the search results.


Shufang Tsai from the Taiwan group shared information from one of her community members about an experience with the previous Chilean earthquake that occurred in 2010. The ideas that came from the Chile earthquake experience included setting up a situation map using Ushahidi on the site and asking the volunteers to search through the media news and put them all together in an easily accessible Google Doc. The information could be then added to the Ushahidi map. Other suggestions of the community member in Japan included the usage of the Tweak the Tweet to collect the information from the twitter and facebook. He has also highlighted the importance of keeping the volunteers data saved somewhere (i.e. a Google Doc).

Sarah Schacht from the group that meets in Seattle has put Ichi in touch with the representatives from Crisis Commons and suggested he should list himself at the Honshu Quake Activities @ Crisis Commons wiki. Sarah has also forwarded his information to the Web of Change to attract tech volunteers.

Jonathan Eyler-Werve from the Chicago group added another wiki link to the conversation – the example of how the source has been used to aggregate the information about the Libyan uprising.
Shufang then summed up the online response information and sent links to (among others):

  • Open source disaster management system Sahana (in Japanese language only)

and to various online sources that work with maps such as:

  • ESRI distaster reponse

The next day (13th of March) Ichi sent us the result of this facebook group work (in Japanese language only) as well as a link to the articles he has been writing (in Japanese language only). He also highlighted the importance of learning the lesson from all of the social media crisis responses and planning a long term strategy for the digital curation in case of disaster.

In a response to Ichi JD Lasica from the group in San Francisco shared links to the interviews with Andy Carvin who had been instrumental in setting up the Hurricane Information Center and the subsequent Crisis Camp for Haiti:

Rachel Weidinger from TechSoup Global sent the group links to resources and recovery guides available on the site – Disaster Planning and Recovery Toolkit.

JD Godchaux from NiJel – a community mapping platform seconded Shufangs’ suggestion to work with Crisis Mappers and encouraged Ichi to join the CrisisMappers list. The project was launched locally on March 11th by a Japanese member of the Open Street Map (OSM) community. The crisis map is being supported by onsite volunteers (mainly in Tokyo) along with a group of students (mainly Japanese) out of Boston lead by The Fletcher School. JD also mentioned another instance of Ushahidi to track radiation levels from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The last comment in the threat came from Ichi, who shared the link to the socialmedia dashboard on Netvibes set by him to catch up the current event. Netvibes is a free web site that allows users to set up their own customized start page composed of “modules” which can contain a wide variety of information from dozens and dozens of other sites. It is a great tool to fetch, store and manage various web sources and make the process transparent and easy to access for everyone.

The entire conversation happened within the 72 hours from the Japanese earthquake and wasn’t stopped when the radiation threat became an issue, nor was it paused by the power outage caused by the disaster.  As the Japanese tragedy proves the role of social media in times of a disaster remains a subject of an ongoing conversation. It highlights the importance of connecting with like-minded people to pool the efforts and delegate responsibilities in the times of crisis. We hope that this post will help others who would like to contribute to the relief of the Japanese tragedy and other disasters that will inevitably happen in the future.

Do you have any other tips or tools for Ichi or anyone else who is interested in using the web to provide digital disaster relief? If so, please share your suggestions in the comments below!

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