Crowd Sourcing of Crisis Information

A group of SIPA students was recently featured on Al Jazeera’s Web site.  The story (text and video) shows how technology developed in Kenya is making it possible to have an impact during crisis situations, even if those interested in assisting are thousands of miles away.  The text below is taken from the Al Jazeera Web site.

University students have always been known for their activism, but I just met a group at Columbia University’s School of Public Affairs (SIPA) who are using technology to take it to a new level.

They are volunteers who have been holed up in the basement of the school’s library, despite their exams, ever since an earthquake struck Chile.

They work in shifts from a tiny room without windows, amid half-eaten snacks and potato-chip wrappers, but they are able to have a direct impact on how aid is delivered to the people in Chile – thanks to an amazing new tool available right on their laptops.

They are using an open source – meaning anyone can use it – computer program called Ushahidi. Ushahidi allows them to take information provided by text messages, email, and twitter and create a “crisis map” of where help is needed.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reports from Columbia University in New York city where the technology is being applied.