Stephen E. Arnold: New York Public Library Posts Open Maps

Categories: Access,Data,Geospatial
Stephen E. Arnold

Stephen E. Arnold

New York Public Library Posts Maps

The New York Public Library has a massive collection of beautiful maps, but instead of keeping them locked in an archive Motherboard reports, “The New York Public Library Releases 20,000 Beautiful High Resolution Maps.”

All of the 20,000 maps are available via open access. What is even more amazing is that the NYPL decided to release the maps under the Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. If you are unfamiliar with a Creative Commons license, it means that users are free to download content and do whatever they want with it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off
Apr 6

Stephen E. Arnold: Open Data Collection with Ushahidi

Stephen E. Arnold

Stephen E. Arnold

Open Data Collection with Ushahidi

March 28, 2014

The crowdsourced data collection platform Ushahidi, now assisting activists worldwide, was first created to facilitate public accountability and social activism during crises in its home nation, Kenya. Not surprisingly, Ushahidi is also the name of the non-profit behind the open-source project. Open-Steps.org interviewed the organization’s director of data projects, Chris Albon, about the platform. The article prefaces the dialogue with a brief explanation:

“In a nutshell, it allows citizens to make reports in a collaborative way, creating crowdsourced interactive maps. With a very intelligent approach, Ushahidi gives citizens the possibility to use the web, their smartphones and even SMS to gather data, which makes this technology accessible almost everywhere and for everyone. Originally created in Kenya to serve as an instrument for social activism and public accountability in crisis situations, the software has proven to be a great companion worldwide in bringing advocacy campaigns to a successful end. The team behind Ushahidi has not only created a world-changing technology but also they share it with others since it is released as Open Source.”

Albon tells us that the core Ushahidi platform is now being used in 159 countries and has been translated into 35 languages, and explains it is being used by groups from small, election-monitoring non-profits to global organizations tracking disaster relief efforts. Journalists also make use of the platform. Albon notes that his group helped build iHub in Nairobi, an “innovation hub” and community workspace designed to facilitate collaboration and community growth. See the article for more on this and Ushahidi’s other projects, Crowdmap, Swiftriver, Ping, and BRCK. The interview wraps up with something to look forward to: the next generation of the Ushahidi core platform, v3, is on its way.

Cynthia Murrell, March 28, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Comments Off
Mar 28

Patrick Meier: Humanitarians Using UAVs for Post Disaster Recovery

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Humanitarians Using UAVs for Post Disaster Recovery

I recently connected with senseFly’s Adam Klaptocz who founded the non-profit group DroneAdventures to promote humanitarian uses of UAVs. I first came across Adam’s efforts last year when reading about his good work in Haiti, which demonstrated the unique role that UAV technology & imagery can play in post-disaster contexts. DroneAdventures has also been active in Japan and Peru. In the coming months, the team will also be working on “aerial archeology” projects in Turkey and Egypt. When Adam emailed me last week, he and his team had just returned from yet another flying mission, this time in the Philippines. I’ll be meeting up with Adam in a couple weeks to learn more about their recent adventures. In the meantime, here’s a quick recap of what they were up to in the Philippines this month.

Read full article.

Comments Off
Mar 26

Launching a Search [Eyes] and Rescue [Payload] Challenge for [Mini] Drone / UAV Pilots

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Launching a Search and Rescue Challenge for Drone / UAV Pilots

My colleague Timothy Reuter (of AidDroids fame) kindly invited me to co-organize the Drone/UAV Search and Rescue Challenge for the DC Drone User Group. The challenge will take place on May 17th near Marshall in Virginia. The rules for the competition are based on the highly successful Search/Rescue challenge organized by my new colleague Chad with the North Texas Drone User Group. We’ll pretend that a person has gone missing by scattering (over a wide area) various clues such pieces of clothing and personal affects. Competitors will use their UAVs to collect imagery of the area and will have 45 minutes after flying to analyze the imagery for clues.

. . . . . . .

CLick on Image to Enlarge

CLick on Image to Enlarge

I want to try something new with this challenge. While previous competitions have focused exclusively on the use of drones/UAVs for the “Search” component of the challenge, I want to introduce the option of also engaging in the “Rescue” part. How? If UAVs identify a missing person, then why not provide that person with immediate assistance while waiting for the Search and Rescue team to arrive on site? The UAV could drop a small and light-weight first aid kit, or small water bottle, or even a small walkie talkie. Enter my new colleague Euan Ramsay who has been working on a UAV payloader solution for Search and Rescue; see the video demo below. Euan, who is based in Switzerland, has very kindly offered to share several payloader units for our UAV challenge. So I’ll be meeting up with him next month to take the units back to DC for the competition.

Read full article.

Comments Off
Mar 24

Patrick Meier: Crisis Mapping without GPS Coordinates

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Crisis Mapping without GPS Coordinates

I recently spoke with a UK start-up that is doing away with GPS coordinates even though their company focuses on geographic information and maps. The start-up, What3Words, has divided the globe into 57 trillion squares and given each of these 3-by-3 meter areas a unique three-word code. Goodbye long postal addresses and cryptic GPS coordinates. Hello planet.inches.most. The start-up also offers a service called OneWord, which allows you to customize a one-word name for any square. In addition, the company has expanded to other languages such as Spanish, Swedish and Russian. They’re now working on including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and others by mid-January 2014. Meanwhile, their API lets anyone build new applications that tap their global map of 57 trillion squares.

When I spoke with CEO Chris Sheldrick, he noted that their very first users were emergency response organizations. One group in Australia, for example, is using What3Words as part of their SMS emergency service. “This will let people identify their homes with just three words, ensuring that emergency vehicles can find them as quickly as possible.” Such an approach provides greater accuracy, which is vital in rural areas. “Our ambulances have a terrible time with street addresses, particularly in The Bush.” Moreover, many places in the world have no addresses at all. So What3Words may also be useful for certain ICT4D projects in addition to crisis mapping. The real key to this service is simplicity, i.e., communicating three words over the phone, via SMS/Twitter or email is far easier (and less error prone) than dictating a postal address or a complicated set of GPS coordinates.

Source with Graphics

Comments Off
Feb 25

Patrick Meier: Crisis Mapping in Areas of Limited Statehood

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Crisis Mapping in Areas of Limited Statehood

I had the great pleasure of contributing a chapter to this new book recently published by Oxford University Press: Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood. My chapter addresses the application of crisis mapping to areas of limited statehood, drawing both on theory and hands-on experience. The short introduction to my chapter is provided below to help promote and disseminate the book.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off
Feb 14

Rapid Disaster Damage Assessments: Reality Check

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Rapid Disaster Damage Assessments: Reality Check

The Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) is the methodology used by UN agencies to assess and analyze humanitarian needs within two weeks of a sudden onset disaster. A detailed overview of the process, methodologies and tools behind MIRA is available here (PDF). These reports are particularly insightful when comparing them with the processes and methodologies used by digital humanitarians to carry out their rapid damage assessments (typically done within 48-72 hours of a disaster).

Take the November 2013 MIRA report for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. I am really impressed by how transparent the report is vis-à-vis the very real limitations behind the assessment. For example:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off
Feb 12

Patrick Meier: Inferring Migration from Twitter

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Inferring International and Internal Migration Patterns from Twitter

My QCRI colleagues Kiran Garimella and Ingmar Weber recently co-authored an important study on migration patterns discerned from Twitter. The study was co-authored with  Bogdan State (Stanford)  and lead author Emilio Zagheni (CUNY). The authors analyzed 500,000 Twitter users based in OECD countries between May 2011 and April 2013. Since Twitter users are not representative of the OECD population, the study uses a “difference-in-differences” approach to reduce selection bias when in out-migration rates for individual countries. The paper is available here and key insights & results are summarized below.

Read full post with graphics.

Comments Off
Feb 6

Patrick Meier: Using UAVs for Search & Rescue

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Using UAVs for Search & Rescue

UAVs (or drones) are starting to be used for search & rescue operations, such as in the Philippines following Typhoon Yolanda a few months ago. They are also used to find missing people in the US, which may explain why members of the North Texas Drone User Group (NTDUG) are organizing the (first ever?) Search & Rescue challenge in a few days. The purpose of this challenge is to 1) encourage members to build better drones and 2) simulate a real world positive application of civilian drones.

Learn more.

Comments Off
Feb 4

Neal Rauhauser: MassBigData Opens Government

Neal Rauhauser

Neal Rauhauser

MassBigData Opens Government

I sometimes think I could drop all of my technical Twitter follows except for @kdnuggets and that would be more than enough to keep me busy. Today he mentioned MassBigData, a statewide initiative to open government data for exploitation. What used to happen inside 128 has spread as far west as Worcester.

. . . . . .

I’ve long advocated for expanding our national rail network and replacing the city networks, which once spanned the entire country from Long Island to Milwaukee. Here’s what the state of Massachusetts makes available in terms of transportation data as part of the initiative:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off
Jan 21