Huffington Post blogger, John D. Volpe, in a post entitled “Where Obama Should Invest Now” addressed the question of why the US government’s mapping tool deployed by the US Army in Pakistan, called HARMONIEweb, is not as effective as the crowdsourced products outlined in the Wired Danger Room’s report. I also mentioned those crowdsourced products, which include Ushahidi and Crisiscommons, in my post yesterday. I asked the question: Will government agencies utilize existing social media and crisis mapping tools or feel compelled to pay contractors to create unique applications?
In Mr. Volpe’s piece, he argues that the US government should invest in building a proper infrastructure for disaster response, “perhaps even using Ushahidi’s collaborative platform.” However, he somewhat contradicts himself in the following statement: [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=pakistan+floods&iid=9784269″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9784269/flood-victims-carry-their/flood-victims-carry-their.jpg?size=500&imageId=9784269″ width=”234″ height=”155″ /]
The bottom line is that we cannot continue to primarily rely on the open-source community to guide our military humanitarian efforts, disaster relief or other essential services. If the White House made the decision [to invest $250 million into this project]…by Thanksgiving, I believe that one-year later:
- The State Department would have a robust tool conducing and measuring public diplomacy;
- The Pentagon would have tools for managing humanitarian aid;
- The Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force would have the resources to truly help military families in need;
- The Education Secretary would have a tool for keeping in constant contact with teachers, parents and students about the issues of the day and areas to improve; and
- Law enforcement would have the tools necessary to curb violent and white-collar crimes.
The author states that if the investment were made: “Jobs would be created. Lives changed. And with everything that’s bad going on, what’s better than creating opportunities for Americans to go back to work and help their country.”
Maybe. But here’s what my cynical self thinks would happen: Big-time contractors would win the bids for the $250 million and then would completely recreate the wheel (e.g. HARMONIEweb 2.0); to continue the analogy, the wheel would not fit any cars currently made, and would have a proprietary system associated with it, so that when it goes flat, only that company would be able to fix it.
Maybe I’m being too cynical…
- Pakistan Aid Groups Aren’t Friending The U.S. Military Online (wired.com)
- John Della Volpe: Why Obama Should Invest Now (huffingtonpost.com)
- What we learned from Haiti and where to go in Pakistan? (ushahidi.com)
I agree about the contractors, they will jump all over the 250MM and screw it up. Better to build it privately and get the government to adopt it.
Let small businesses loose on a problem — a small, agile, smart small business can accomplish a lot with relatively little funding. Hope the feds will give that a try!