New technologies for collecting and analysing information are becoming increasingly important to organizations in the humanitarian, human rights, election monitoring and media space. Most of the time, however, these organizations do not have bandwidth to dedicate existing staff and resources to create live maps. Nor do they have access to a skilled volunteer community for support. The purpose of the Standby Volunteer Task Force is therefore to provide dedicated crowdsourcing, mapping, data scrambling and technology testing support to such organizations, particularly local organizations.
The Task Force, which was launched at the International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM), currently comprises some 900 skilled volunteers with dedicated experience in online Crisis Mapping. Existing Task Force volunteers are from 70+ different countries and have been involved in crisis mapping projects for Haiti, Chile, Pakistan, Colombia, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, etc.
Crisis Mapping is composed four key components: information collection, visualization, analysis and response. This explains why the Task Force takes a modular approach comprising the following Teams, which can be activated in combination or individually:
- Technology Team - Responsible for all technical tasks related to Crisis Mapping such as launching crisis mapping platforms and integrating existing SMS and RSS feeds.
- Media Monitoring Team - Monitors online media for relevant reports.
- SMS Team -Monitors incoming SMS from already existing feed.
- Verification Team - Triangulates reports from the Media and SMS Teams.
- Translation Team - Translates Media and SMS reports from/to English.
- Geo-Location Team - Finds GPS coordinates for Media and SMS reports.
- Analysis Team - Provides summary reports based on the incoming data.
- Satellite Imagery Team - Provides satellite imagery analysis using micro-tasking.
- Humanitarian Team - Comprises existing professional humanitarians who liaise between the Task Force and humanitarian organizations.
- Report Team - Create reports inside the Ushahidi platform (if available) and does quality control on the data collected by the volunteers
- Task Team - perform all tasks not performed by other teams, provide support, does data scrambling and internet research and perform ad hoc assignments
The Task Force prefers to work with open, non-proprietary data. Note however that all Task Force volunteers are required to sign a code of conduct based on Red Cross principles for data privacy and general conduct.
The Task Force is currently exploring partnerships with a number of important communities including Open Street Map (OSM), MapAction, Sahana and CrisisCommons. Existing volunteers are currently skilled in using the Ushahidi and Tomnod platforms but the Task Force actively seeks to extend volunteer skill sets to include mapping and information tools designed by these other communities. A dedicated Webinar series also seeks to provide volunteers with a better understanding of the humanitarian field with speakers presenting on the UN Cluster system, for example.
The Task Force has specific protocols for organizations seeking to activate the online volunteer community. There are also specific criteria for the Task Force to decide whether or not to accept a request. More information on the Task Force is available online at: standbytaskforce.