On November 7-9 TIDES Founder, Dr. Linton Wells attended the International Conference of Crisis Mappers (ICCM 2014) at the New School in New York City. The theme of this year’s event, Affected Communities in Spotlight, focused on better engaging and understanding populations as the primary reference frame during a disaster.
The annual ICCM is a very important humanitarian technology forum, bringing together key humanitarian, human rights, development and media organizations with exceptional technology companies, software developers and academics. It is a neutral space where important conversations can lead to concrete new projects and deliverables across diverse domains. As a community of practice it catalyzes innovation in the area of human technology.
Nigel Snoad of the Google Crisis Response Team was the MC and outlined the importance of finding better ways to serve affected populations and the ultimate end users (people whose lives are at risk or who want to make their lives better). As he noted, “Mapping is not just plots on a 2-D space, mapping is about telling stories.”
The schedule was divided into four parts: Pre-conference training and field trips on Nov 6, A series of 22 five-minute “ignite” sessions, plus three keynote speakers on the 7th, Deep dive project reviews and a real world field mapping exercise on the 8th, and Self-organizing sessions and wrap-up discussions on the 9th
Supporting the overall theme above, the ignite sessions broke down into a few broad categories:
- Real world experiences, in the Philippines, with the American Red Cross, the Czech government, etc.
- Project Descriptions, ranging from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to communications & alerting systems, to information sharing protocols, etc.
- Gender issues in crisis response
- Legal, medical, privacy and ethics concerns
Some of the highlighted questions that arose included:
- How to handle risk to people in vulnerable communities. What should be shared and what should be private?
- There are many crises today: Ebola, human trafficking, drugs, food (800 million people don’t have enough food), failure to mitigate climate change, income disparity (1% of people have 40% of the world’s wealth), youth unemployment, Iraq, Ukraine, etc. What are the causes and effects?
- Can S&T improve the environment? Can it end hunger?
- Humanitarian data exchange is important—how do you communicate info from digital maps to people who are used to white paper for maps? What happens if we get too dependent on technology?
- How do you take the politics out of violent conflict situations?
The co-keynote speakers included: Ms. Atefah Riazi, Chief Information Technology Officer & Assistant Secretary General, United Nations; Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Chief, World Humanitarian Summit, United Nations, and The Rt. Hon David Miliband, President, International Rescue Committee
The field mapping exercise used New York’s Union Square as a “crisis response hot zone” and produced an exceptionally rich and interesting set of mapping products and human interactions in just a few hours.
Dr. Wells truly appreciates all the creativity and agility and anticipates that the theme of ICCM 2015, in Boston in conjunction with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), will be: How to put Crisis Mapping in the shoes of survivors? A goal will be to put user-based thinking at the heart of the efforts. The full trip report, which contains useful links, can be found at: http://star-tides.net/documents/summary-international-conference-crisis-mappers-iccm-14