I’ll admit it. If I have a blind spot in how social media is used in
public health emergencies, it is in the realm of mapping. And it’s a
shame because, in the volunteer tech communities out there,
crisismapping is the most tangible evidence of success. And frankly,
this is one area I believe will see rapid growth—and growing
legitimacy—in the coming year. Therefore, one of my goals next year is
to learn more about crisismapping and how it can help those of us in
And boy are there some great folks out there to learn from.
In public health the first, and most obvious, is the HealthMap
team. Comprised of researchers from
Boston, HealthMap utilizes 11 different data sources to plot, and
track, outbreaks of public health interest around the globe. The
coolest part of this project, because the idea really isn’t novel, is
the openness. Anyone with a smartphone or Internet connection can get
access to the research and Internet scraping that the team does.
Download the app here. A
number of for-profit compares do the very same thing, but none of them
can compete on price (especially one that is so attractive to
cash-strapped local public health departments).
Next up is the amazing group that is CrisisMappers.net. A group that
offers expertise in mapping and GIS with real experience in disaster
response is more than most of us can say about our employees, so this
volunteer group should be—and ultimately will be—seen as a resource to
be tapped. And if you doubt what they can accomplish, just see this
page about their activities after the Haiti
The big momma in this field are the folks from
Ushahidi. Ushahidi is a software developed to
help track, and map, instances of violence in African countries as a
way to identify politically motivated violence. The name, Ushahidi,
literally means, “testimony.” While this software has gained a ton of
believers overseas, it’s only a matter of time before it’s used
extensively in the US.
I hate that I can’t speak more intelligently on this topic, but feel
it’s simply too important not to talk about. If you have any
experience with the crisismapping world, or would like to learn more,
please leave a comment below.