Tag Archives: Geographic information system

Connecting Grassroots to Government: A Wilson Center Workshop

The Woodrow Wilson Plaza located in the Federa...

The Woodrow Wilson Plaza located in the Federal Triangle area of Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Post by: Kim Stephens

This week the Commons Lab of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will be hosting a workshop titled: “Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management.” This event is being held in collaboration with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation, the International Association for Information Systems for Crisis Response and ManagementESRITechChangeNetHope, and Project EPIC.  As the title suggests, the focus will be on how citizen or crowdsourced data generated from “diverse perspectives” can be effectively utilized by government response officials.  However, interestingly, the intended audience is federal officials. Their materials state:  

This roundtable will focus on US federal government’s opportunities and challenges for facilitating greater public engagement in the full-cycle of disaster management through social media, crowdsourcing methods, crisis mapping, and open innovation.

The Workshop Background Reading  material outlines the anticipated discussion framework. Specifically, they hope to address these questions:

  • Can citizens generate inputs to critical decisions? If so, with what kind of speed and what degree of accuracy?
  • What does the research show, and how are the best ideas being translated into practice?
  • How have agencies successfully navigated potential roadblocks to the use of citizen- generated information, such as privacy, procurement, or the Paperwork Reduction Act?
  • When and how is it possible to innovate through open and participatory design with citizens and communities?
The read-ahead material is quite a good resource in-and-of itself. The 13-page fully cited and sourced document provides information on the following topics:
  • Data efficiency and accuracy
  • Evaluation Frameworks (e.g. how do we understand volunteered information production)
  • Research Challenges
  • Legal and Policy Issues
    • Privacy and Confidentiality
    • Liability
    • Paperwork Reduction Act (and OMB Social Media Memo)
    • Intellectual Property
  • Models of Successful Collaboration
  • Current State of Technology and Future Development

You Can Participate

According to their event information page, even though the workshop is full,  the majority of the panel discussions will be available live via the Wilson Center webpages. They state:
People can also interact with the panelists by submitting comments and questions:

This looks like a really interesting event, and even though the focus if federal, my guess is that quite a lot of the information will translate to the local level. What will be your question for the panelist?

Is Your Organization Socially Awkward?

Post by: Kim Stephens

Social Media Outposts

Brian Crumpler, a public employee and author of the “Disastermapping” blog, posted yesterday about social media as the “new professional development.”  He  tries to demystify the tools by stating “Social Media is simply the use of media (written and/or visual) to communicate thoughts and ideas through social interaction.” A friend of mine asked me last week if I wasted my time during the work day “playing around on social media.” The fact that that sentiment is still somewhat widely held makes posts like Brian’s all the more important. Below he states his case:

 Within the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) community, there are a number of people all around the country that I now interact with on a regular basis.  The same is true about the Social Media for Emergency Management (#SMEM) community.  I’ve also had the incredible privilege to explore and learn more about the next frontier of connected data “BIG DATA” (#BigData), interact with incredible minds in the Data Visualization #DataViz community, and even build good working relationships with some of the best minds in many of these fields.

Brian reminds us that the tools he uses to connect with these people should not be the focus of agency or company policy, the focus should be on what he is learning. My 15 year old daughter brought this idea home for me yesterday when I said to her “You are addicted to your phone.” She said, “No Mom, it’s about the people I’m interacting with, not the phone.” When did teens get so smart?

Since professional interactions are vital to most people’s jobs, then why shouldn’t they have the ability to access social networks at work?  NASA asked this question a while ago and wrote about it last year in the article “Beyond 140 characters.”  Two things stood out to me:

  1. They determined that social media were really not much different than telephones and email.
    1. “Most of the existing policies worked with minor exceptions. For example, updates to NASA Policy Directive 2540.1 included replacing the word “teletypes” with “Facebook.” That change, combined with other modifications, resulted in the current NPD 2540.1G revision that allows the use of government equipment to go to sites like Twitter and Facebook, as long as it isn’t impacting your work duties.
  2. They defined people’s  work functions in their social media policy in order to determine how and why people should have access. These groups included  “official spokesperson,” “professional,”and, “private individuals.”
    1.  “Official spokespersons are charged with representing the Agency (e.g., Public Affairs Office, associate administrators, etc.).
    2. The general public and employees (not on the clock) fall in the “private individual” category, which means they are expressing a personal, individual opinion, and not the Agency’s.
    3. In between is “professional,” who uses social media technologies in the performance of professional duties to support NASA (i.e., communications made in a business or professional capacity).”

The healthcare community is also struggling with who should have access. Quite a few hospitals, for example, are using social networks to market their facilities to customers, however, the use of these tools from anyone other than PIOs is still quite new and “scary.” Dr. Farris Timimi of the Mayo Clinic, an organization that is really paving the social media path for the rest of the healthcare industry, explains in the video below why access for professionals is not only important, but vital.  I love his point about trusting staff to use these tools:   “We trust you as a provider with scalpels and lives, we [should] trust you as a provider with twitter and facebook.

Tell me, what kind of access do you or your staff have?


Mobile App to Help with Damage Assessment Data Collection

Post by: Kim Stephens

Austin Peay State University’s Geographic Information System center, located in Clarksville, Tennessee has a close working relationship with their local Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency. They have assisted them, and the broader District 7 multi-county Homeland Security District, with crisis and mitigation mapping  for many years. I believe this intimate understanding of emergency responders and their needs helped the geographers comprehend how emerging technologies could be applied after a disaster.

Mike Wilson, manager of the GIS Center, and his team obtained funds from the South East Region Research Initiative (SERRI), a program managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for DHS, to develop a mobile application called DMARK–Disaster Mitigation and Recovery Kit. The app’s main function is to assist with the collection of damage assessment data via mobile phone, which can then be transmitted back to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in almost real-time, if wireless connectivity is available. According to Douglas Catellier, a GIS analyst and one of the creators, it also has the ability to match damage assessment data with existing, pre-event databases. I think this feature might be its the most powerful contribution:

The data can also be tied together with Property Assessor data so that actual property assessments can be checked and the damage estimates can be tallied using a computer database rather than the pencil and paper method that is currently the most common.  DMARK also allows for the damage assessor to photograph and or make a digital voice recording  for each property being assessed that is tied directly to that property record in the database.  Special needs data can also be collected and the record flagged so that managers can get to those who may have special needs in a timely manner.

it's real :)

Image via Wikipedia

According to their press release, the app was unveiled last year as a proto-type and field tested during last May’s (2010) massive Tennessee flood event. This revealed the program’s power–drastically cutting down on the time it took to collect damage assessment data, but it also pointed to several ways the program could be improved. For one, they would like to build it out for all major operating systems–it’s currently only available on Android operating system for mobile phones as well as laptop and desktop applications for administrative management.Another concern was the data form included in the app. It originally was just a standard form, but they would like to allow users to create and download their own forms, according to the release.  “That way, DMARK can be used by emergency personnel for any type of situation, from an earthquake in California to a hurricane in Florida.”

This looks like a great new way to deal with the massive amounts of data that has to be collected after a crisis. For more information visit their website: APSU GIS Center.

Resources for understanding crisis mapping and new collaboration technologies

Post by: Kim Stephens

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=google+maps&iid=7211246″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/7211246/california-gov/california-gov.jpg?size=500&imageId=7211246″ width=”380″ height=”516″ /]Mapping data before, during, and after a disaster is not new. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been used effectively for years by emergency managers and geospatial technology professionals to visualize hazards for mitigation and document impacted areas after a disaster. What is new is how interactive mappings tools, such as Google Maps, Google Earth, and  Open Street Map, are being used by humanitarian organizations or just interested volunteers to create interactive visualizations of data during a disaster or crisis response. The reasons for mapping a crisis could be to influence the outcome of that disaster, create a better understanding of the event, or possibly affect changes in policy or future behavior.

On Oct. 1, the International Conference on Crisis Mapping will convene for  its second year.  The conference will ” … bring together the most engaged practitioners, scholars, software developers and policymakers at the cutting edge of crisis mapping to address and assess the role of crisis mapping and humanitarian technology in the disaster response to Haiti and beyond.” If this topic is of interest to you, the conference web page has a wonderful list of hyperlinks for each of the speakers giving “ignite” talks.

Another great source for information is the working syllabus for a new Political Science course entitled:  “Crisis Mapping, Politics & New Media (part I)“. Part II is also available. The course was created by Jen Ziemke. The course materials are listed on the website and includes many hyperlinks to great information on the topic, which might be quicker than reading the 5 books listed.

For more background see the comprehensive writings on the topic by Patrick Meier of Ushahidi. He explains that crisis mapping “is more than mapping crisis data” and describes three “key pillars” that combine to make a comprehensive process: Crisis Map Sourcing–Crisis Mapping Analysis–Crisis Mapping Response.

  • Crisis Map Sourcing includes four components: Crisis Map Coding, or hand coding geo-referenced event-data. Participatory Crisis Mapping, or many people participating in mapping with a focus on a crisis, like what was done during the response to the crisis in Haiti; Mobile Crisis Mapping, which “includes the use of mobile phones, geospatial technologies and unmanned areal vehicle (which I would guess depends on data availability); and Automated Crisis Mapping, which “looks at natural language processing and computational linguistics to extract event-data.”
  • Crisis Mapping Analysis enables the users to identify patterns over space and time. This includes three components: Crisis Mapping Visualization, 2D or 3D imagery or color coding, etc.; Crisis Mapping Analytics, or using broader analytical tools, such as statistics, to understand patterns; and finally Crisis Map Modeling, which uses “empirical data to simulate different scenarios.”
  • Crisis Mapping Response simply refers to the deployment of a crisis map during a disaster event. This involves Crisis Map Dissemination; Crisis Map Decisions Support–or  identifying relevant patterns in the data that can impact the response decision-making process (e.g. where are refugees staging impromptu camps, etc.); and finally Crisis Map Monitoring and Evaluation, which applies an analytical approach to how the map project itself was deployed (or what I would call crisis map after-action analysis).

I am going to attend the conference in Boston with the hope of obtaining a better understanding of the theoretical basis of crisis mapping, crowdsourcing and collaborative technologies. I hope I can read those 5 books before Friday!