Digital Humanitarians for Nepal

As of this writing, the death toll of Nepal's April 25, 2015 devastating earthquake is an estimated 4,000 with thousands more displaced and unaccounted for. Within hours of the quake, rescue teams and organizations from all over the world came to aid the country in their search and rescue operation. Unbeknownst to many, scores of digital volunteers from two organizations, Standby Task Force (SBTF) and Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) have been working tirelessly from all corners of the world to help rescue teams on the ground.

SBTF and DHN have developed systems that monitor, categorize, and filter data generated by social and mainstream media. These data points can be used to create real-time crowdsourced maps that emergency workers can utilize on the ground to effectively coordinate response with the scores of teams involved. For example, digital volunteers from SBTF and DHN can tag relevant Twitter posts for disaster response teams to see. Since the earthquake, SBTF has deployed 83 digital volunteers and has processed 1.4 million tweets, tagging 51,000 images and 6,000 posts as relevant data points for rescue teams.

The user-generated data points are not meant to replace conventional tactics used by search and rescue teams. Instead, it will--if done correctly--add another dimension for disaster response. As Jus Mackinnon, president of SBTF explains, digital humanitarians

can really make a difference on the ground by giving relief and rescue organizations a good idea of which areas are affected in what way. This helps [rescuers] target their efforts more effectively and get help to the people who need it as quickly as possible.

To learn more about SBTF, please click here.