Category Archives: Humanitarian

Technology: corporate vs. humanitarian needs and trends

Lybia Crisis Map by UshahidiThis week, the 3rd International Conference of Crisis Mapping was held in Geneva. However, don’t expect this article to be a wrap-up. No, a wrap-up is later or elsewhere. This article is just one of many inspirations by ICCM put into words, reflecting on our expectations in technology and the direction we are heading.

It is about where we expect technology to take us. If we don’t know what is possible, our estimates will always be wrong.

During the first day’s keynotes and Ignite sessions it became very clear already: what is expected from technology – and the way it is used – corresponds explicitly to some requirements/trends identified independently from humanitarian applications already. I had to realize that it makes a lot of (imaginary?) boundaries between corporate and non-profit disappear.

(However, let’s not forget that the weight of a need/trend is very different in the two areas: what is an interesting tool for branding/customer retention/sales/… or simply a nice gadget in the corporate world can have life-saving impact in the humanitarian field. Nothing less.)


In countries where there are no accurate maps, how to get people to contribute to the Humanitarian Open Street Map project? And how to get them to contribute useful data? Learning by doing. Kate Chapman said that in Indonesia, they organized a contest at a university where teams of students were invited to map their city. 5 points for each building mapped, 1 point for everything else.

User-based design and simplicity

Before a crowd-sourced mapping of Indonesia was even possible, the tool had to correspond to something people were able to understand. Kate Chapman explained that they had to adapt the iconography and create icons that would make sense to Indonesian people – the standard Western ones simply wouldn’t. Continue reading