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CrisisCamp: Information Wranglers Spare Cycles for Haiti

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, January 19 2010

In a time of crisis, information is king. Well, more than just information -- data that is where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, and accessible to those who need it the most.

What's unfolding in Haiti , as search-and-rescue is evolving into the challenge of managing the distribution of food and water, getting people into safe spaces, reconnecting them with their lost family and friends, and providing some sort of vision for the days and months ahead, bears out the critical importance of a skilled wrangling of information, especially when so much of life's more tangible things have been upended. The thing is, wrangling information just also happens to be one of the things that modern technologists are best at. That's the thinking behind CrisisCamp Haiti edition, a coming-together that happened in several cities this weekend, aimed channeling programmers' desires to help in Haiti into a chance to "collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti’s relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public."

CNN covered the CrisisCamp that took place in DC:

A weekend meeting of technology pros looking to help victims of the Haiti earthquake yielded some ready-to-roll projects and a few more nearing completion. Perhaps more important, participants say, the gathering produced a framework that could keep aiding disaster-relief efforts in the months and years to come.

CrisisCamp Haiti brought together developers, programmers and other volunteers for meetings in Washington, Los Angeles, California, and other cities.

Results included a digital map to help relief groups in Haiti coordinate their efforts and applications for the iPhone and other smartphones, including a Creole-to-English dictionary.

And the LA Times had a look at the Los Angeles version of the event:

Santa Barbara online mapping expert Chad Catacchio organized Saturday's Los Angeles workshop on about a day's notice. He used the Internet to spread the word and recruit volunteers.

Among those who showed up on short notice were representatives of Google, NASA, the United Nations, the American Red Cross and the Los Angeles City Fire Department, said Catacchio, 33.

"The next time there's a crisis here or elsewhere, we're going to be better prepared. We'll be able to hit the ground running, rather than limping," said Josh Rehman, a 34-year-old computer programmer from Seal Beach.

More on this weekend's CrisisCamp from American Public Media's Marketplace and NPR. (Photo credit: Leslie Jenkins)