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Red Cross Relies on OpenStreetMap in Haiyan Relief Efforts

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, November 13 2013

Screenshot of the OpenStreetMap of Tacloban

Humanitarian organizations are amping up their use of crowdsourcing in response to Super-typhoon Haiyan. On Monday, techPresident reported that the United Nations' partnership with the Digital Humanitarian Network resulted in groundbreaking use of human computing and machine computing to sift through big data in the aftermath of the super-typhoon. In a similar vein, for the first time the Red Cross coordinated their response to Haiyan based on information crowdsourced on OpenStreetMap (OSM).

OSM is a global open source mapping platform, built entirely by its user base in the same way Wikipedia is written by users. In response to a request by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to help map areas in the Philippines in the path of the storm, hundreds of volunteers chipped in to help “trace” roads visible on satellite data into a usable OSM format. The maps could then be printed out for use by volunteers on the ground in the Philippines, so that they would be able to pinpoint where a road or a building should have been.

What the Red Cross needs now are maps of the country after the super-typhoon. The U.S. Department of Defense-operated National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has captured satellite images of the Philippines, but The Atlantic reports that they have not yet released them to the Red Cross. NGA has shared with the Red Cross the coordinates for the worst-hit areas but nothing more specific.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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