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Mapping Technology Allows NGOs to Coordinate Disaster Relief in West Africa

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, July 26 2012

Screenshot from SahelResponse website

Data-sharing maps and open data are allowing multiple international NGOs to coordinate aid efforts in the Sahel region of West Africa, where 18 million people face a food crisis in the coming months. The arid belt of land just below the Sahara Desert is vulnerable to drought even under ideal conditions, but natural disaster has been exacerbated recently by conflict and population movement.

In an article for PBS, Nate Smith of Development Seed explains how SahelResponse was able to source data and create a map that shared information about the ongoing food crisis: By using "new technologies...and an increased adoption of open data, it was possible to put all the key data about the crisis — from relief access routes to drought conditions and population movements — in one place, openly available and mapped to give it further context." Smith continues:

When a food crisis ramps up, donors and humanitarian organizations must move fast to respond, and typically that involves coordinating information across working groups, situation reports, and informal networks. There is a real challenge to gather and share information about your operations and those of other organizations working to respond to the same crisis. In the Sahel, the need to obtain data about the severity of the situation is critical for a coordinated international response.

If you are embracing your inner Luddite today, should help you get over it. The site is a textbook example of how technology can make the world a better place.