Open Humanitarian Code Sprint Overview

OHI purpose

The Open Humanitarian Initiative strives to revolutionize how information is shared in humanitarian response by engaging nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, private sector technology companies, donors and governments in a shared vision that advocates for open data.
Code sprint
To enact this purpose, OHI hosted a code sprint to bring together individuals from a variety of mapping, data, decision-making, and networking expertise. The attendees explored how their existing work could overlap and support one another’s efforts, and what new things they could build together. We had two locations – Washington, DC area and Birmingham, England. The DC event was hosted by ESRI at their Vienna, Virginia location. The England event happened in conjunction with Maptember and Aston University’s H4D2 program.

The Teams

Briar : The Briar project is building secure communication tools to enable journalists, activists and civil society groups to communicate safely without fear of government interference. Our open source mobile and desktop apps will provide a secure, easy-to-use alternative to email, blogs and message boards, where users can exchange private messages with their contacts, create their own blogs and message boards, and subscribe to blogs and boards their contacts have shared.

ESRI inspires and enables people to positively impact the future through a deeper, geographic understanding of the changing world around them.

George Washington University : Department of Engineering Management & Systems Engineering and Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management.

MapAction : MapAction’s service is unique. It’s the only non-governmental organisation (NGO) with a capacity to deploy a fully trained and equipped humanitarian mapping and information management team anywhere in the world, often within just hours.

Sahana: The Sahana platform is a versatile open source toolkit for building custom humanitarian solutions. It is used by Disaster Management agencies ariound the globe and supported by a 501s non-profit foundation.

Taarifa : The Taarifa Platform is a resilient open source application for helping cities or groups of people fix their plumbing and do similar infrastructure management tasks — like a github for the real world. It allows people to collect, share, and visualise their own stories and problems using various mediums, like SMS, web forms, email or Twitter.

Ushahidi : We are a non-profit tech company that specializes in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. We build tools for democratizing information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories. We’re a disruptive organization that is willing to take risks in the pursuit of changing the traditional way that information flows.

The Outputs

MapAction working on automating things
Karen got some Java questions answered
Sahana built out a Who What Where tool for the Syria scenario

Joined Efforts

  • Karen’s expertise lent to prioritization things and big picture
  • Dr. Gralla and Brandon Greenberg provided a better understanding of the system of humanitarian response, as well as informed the group on decision making processes.
  • MapAction and Ushahidi were able to share data structures such that Ushahidi deployments will involve the exceptional categorizations MapAction has come up with. This means easier use of Ushahidi by their far-flung participatory mapping community as well as easier data sharing between MapAction and Ushahidi. This is awesome because MapAction is usually based on official data sources, which are limited though verifiable, and Ushahidi gives a more bottom-up, adaptive understanding of a situation. With their powers combined, a more holistic view of an incident should be formed.
  • Taarifa, tho lightweight enough for developing areas, is still reliant upon a department to receive and respond to incoming reports. By visioning what a distributed instance, built on top of Briar, would look like, we were able to see a city with citizens capable of addressing many of the issues outside the capability or pervue of the city. One person can report an issue, and another can fix it. The workflow looks a bit like this:

Lessons Learned

While we all might agree that sharing of data and working together are noble purposes worth persuing, doing the actual work is a difficult sell. Taking time away from our worthwhile daily endeavors to try new things and meet new people is a big ask. We were honored to have the company of the folk who could attend, and hope it was worth their while. Making it possible to take more time, and removing the barriers to participation, is arguably the biggest part of holding events such as these.

What’s Next

Seeing how the data structures and connective tissues of Taarifa transfer into a disaster scenario. We often wonder about state changes, and having an existing knowledge of an area. A community map created in the long disasters of sanitation and health issues would prove useful in fast disasters such as earthquakes and mudslides as well.
Briar Taarifa test deployments in developed cities. Looking for seed funding to get that up and going, spec out a 2 and 5 year plan.