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News — 03 November, 2012

Digital Humanitarian Network Simulation at ICCM Washington DC

Thanks to OCHA, I had the opportunity to participate in the whole ICCM (International Conference for Crisis Mappers) in Washington, DC, October 11-14. Organized by Crisis Mappers, OCHA and TechChange, with funds from the ICT4Peace Foundation the last day. has been a thrilling event for the participants and achieved its main goals: make the DHN members know each other better so that they foresee and discuss raising projects and partnerships; test the behavior of the DHNetwork members regarding various crisis scenarios and get feedback from some main humanitarian organizations like USAID, the US State Department or UN-Spider, as related here (note to myself: learn how to remain naturally smiling when shot with the sun in front of me).

This DHN simulation has been the opportunity for the nicknamed “hard core" GIS/mapping organizations among the DHN Members, that means MapAction, GIS Corps (Shoreh Elhami) and HOT, to discuss potential partnerships that we have now to settle. Johnny Douch from MapAction invite us for the field exercises they regularly organize. We also talked about providing mutual trainings on OSM and GIS techniques or designing field mapping activities similar to what was done in Gulu and Lira, Uganda between HOT and the American and Ugandan Red Crosses. Last but not least, trying in the future to deploy together when possible and relevant might be also an exciting field to design. With Shoreh Elhami from GIS Corps, we continued discussions started over the past weeks about designing systematic workflows during crisis activation and preparedness, including a coordinated data scramble, and various tasks regarding creation of geographic data.

IMHO, I think that the DHNetwork should definitely make profit of the learning and benefits of the ICCM simulation to settle clear processes and coordination tools for any crisis activation. Of course Representatives of the DHN organizations know each other now and identified some fields of partnership, but this has to be supported and developed. Over the conference, we mentioned two main useful tools:

  • besides the joint effort during crisis, a platform for the DHN members being able to inform each other about what are the projects they are working on, what actually might suggest unsuspected potential new partnerships
  • during the crisis activations, a micro-tasking platform would make the steps of the response clearer, help rising synergies and facilitate the post-crisis internal review

Beyond improving its internal understanding and coordination, IMHO the DHNetwork should also improve the way a potential new volunteer can enter into it. Currently she or he has to click on the logo of each DHN member to then be redirected to each specific website and pass over all the About sections. Having a dedicated, fancy and interactive section of the DHN website would make this research far easier and exciting, with some quick questions about skills and wanted ways for participating and providing, as a result, a list of the DHN organizations that fit the most, with a quick presentation and also the potential bridges between them.

A further step could be involving local VTCs in the crisis response: they would provide useful information for the response and the DHN would help them to make it available for the whole humanitarian community. HOT can have a pioneering role in this as we specifically aim at rising or reinforcing local technical communities in the developing countries we deploy (Indonesia, Haiti, Senegal, etc). We are now thinking about activating them when crisis arise and support them through a set of tools including FrontLineSMS/Ushaihidi/OpenStreetMap.