Keeping up to date with science journals always pays off. The NewScientist just published a really interesting piece related to crisis mapping of diseases this morning. I had to hop on a flight back to Boston so am uploading my post now.
The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe is becoming increasingly serious but needed data on the number cases and fatalities to control the problem is difficult to obtain. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Zimbabwe has stated that “any system that improves data collecting and sharing would be beneficial.”
This is where WikiMapAid comes in. Developed by Global Map Aid, the wiki enables humanitarian workers to map information on a version of Google Maps that can be viewed by anyone. “The hope is that by circumventing official information channels, a clearer picture of what is happening on the ground can develop.” The website is based on a “Brazilian project called Wikicrimes, launched last year, in which members of the public share information about crime in their local area.”
WikiMapAid allows users to create markers and attach links to photographs or to post a report of the current situation in the area. Given the context of Zimbabwe, “if people feel they will attract attention from the authorities by posting information, they could perhaps get friends on the outside to post information for them.”
As always with peer-produced data, the validity of the information will depend on those supplying it. While moderators will “edit and keep track of postings […], unreliable reporting could be a problem. In order to address this, the team behind the project is “developing an algorithm that will rate the reputation of users according to whether the information they post is corroborated, or contradicted.”
This is very much in line with the approach we’re taking at Ushahidi for the Swift River project. As WikiMapAid notes, “even if we’re just 80 per cent perfect, we will still have made a huge step forward in terms of being able to galvanize public opinion, raise funds, prioritize need and speed the aid on those who need it most.”
Time to get in touch with the good folks at WikiMapAid.