From Intellipedia, to Virtual Osocc to WikiWarning?

What can we in the humanitarian community learn from Intellipedia as described in my previous blog ?

Some thoughts:

  • Let go of our ego-centric tendencies for control
  • Decentralize user-generated content and access
  • Utilization of tagging, IM, online video posting
  • Use open source tools and make minimal modifications
  • Capture tacit and informal knowledge qualitatively via blogs and wikis
  • Keep user-interfaces simple and minimize use of sophisticated interfaces
  • Provide non-monetary incentives for information collection and sharing
  • Shift from quality control mindset to soap box approach

There are no doubt more insights to be gained from the Intellipedia project but do we have any parallel information management systems in the humanitarian community? The first one that comes to mind is Virtual Osocc:

There are currently 2,437 users. The site includes a bulletin board where discussions can take place vis-a-vis ongoing emergencies and/or issues. A photo library is also available as are sections on training and meetings. The site’s homepage points to breaking emergencies and ongoing crises. Users can subscribe to email and SMS alerts.

When I spoke with the team behind Virtual Osocc, I was surprised to learn that the project has received no official endorsement by any UN agencies. This is particularly telling since an indicator of success for humanitarian information systems is the size of the active user base. Other points worth mentioning from my conversations with the team since they relate directly to my previous blog on Intellipedia include:

  • Tensions between the UN and NGOs vis-vis information sharing is healthy since it keeps us honest;
  • Decision-making in disaster management is by consensus (so tools should be designed accordingly);
  • Our community is currently unable to communicate effectively with the beneficiaries themselves.

Another humanitarian information systems is of course ReliefWeb, which is very well known so I shan’t expand on the system here. I would just like to suggest that we think of ways to integrate more Web 2.0 tools into ReliefWeb; allowing a wiki and blogging space, for example. There’s also the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) manged out of the Joint Research Center (JRC) in Ispra, Italy. See my recent blog on the JRC’s satellite imagery change detection project here. The JRC is doing some phenomenal work and GDACS is an excellent reflection of this work. I will leave a more thorough overview of GDACS for a future blog entry.

Then there’s the new information system which was launched this past October 2007 in collaboration with the JRC. The system is a new web portal for leading situation centers including those at UN DPKO, the EU Council and NATO. The purpose of the new system is to facilitate the exchange and storage of unique and relevant information on emerging and ongoing crises and conflicts.The portal facilitates the exchange of unique documents including satellite images. Users can subscribe to specific email and SMS alerts. The system also include a Wiki mapping section. Needless to say, the new web portal is password protected and the user base limited to an elite few. This initiative may benefit from more Intellipedia think.

The issue that I find most pressing in all of this is the lack of two-communication (not to mention one-way) communication with beneficiaries. I find this gap upsetting. So I set up Wikiwarning some two years ago in the hope of finding the time, support and expertise to fully develop the concept and tool. Any takers?

My next blog will address the issue of intelligence for the stakeholders.

Patrick Philippe Meier

2 responses to “From Intellipedia, to Virtual Osocc to WikiWarning?

  1. Mr Meier, wondering whether the funding by OCHA of the OSOCC isn’t endorsement?

    Is OSOCC inclusive of the aid groups and NGOs?

  2. Pingback: How ReCAPTCHA Can Be Used for Disaster Response | iRevolution

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