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Call for better coordination in online mapping

US: The potential of online mapping to transform humanitarian services will not be realised without better coordination and communication between digital volunteers and veteran agencies in the relief field, like the United Nations and the Red Cross, according to a report, Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies.

The report is a collaboration of four groups — the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Vodafone Foundation and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Humanitarian groups say that the crisis-mapping response to the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 was striking proof of the potential of new mapping tools, and the report is largely about lessons learned there. “Haiti showed everyone that it is going to be crucial to adopt and use these technologies to make humanitarian work better, faster and more efficient,” said Adele Waugaman, senior director of a technology partnership between the United Nations and Vodafone foundations focused on aid and development programs.

Also, a group of online mapping organizations with a humanitarian focus were in existence by then. They include the humanitarian branch of OpenStreetMap, Crisis Mappers, Sahana and Ushahidi.

These nonprofit efforts built on broader changes in the field of satellite imaging and global mapping, led by large companies — notably Google and Microsoft. “On the technology side, Google, Microsoft and OpenStreetMap have really democratized mapping,” said Nigel Snoad, strategy adviser for the communications and information services unit of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Source: NYTimes.com