Real Time LRA Crisis Map Tracks Mass Atrocities in Central Africa

My colleagues at Resolve and Invisible Children have just launched their very impressive Crisis Map of LRA Attacks in Central Africa. The LRA, or Lord’s Resistance Army, is a brutal rebel group responsible for widespread mass atrocities, most of which go completely unreported because the killings and kidnappings happen in remote areas. This crisis map has been a long time in the making so I want to sincerely congratulate Michael Poffenberger, Sean Poole, Adam Finck, Kenneth Transier and the entire team for the stellar job they’ve done with this project. The LRA Crisis Tracker is an  important milestone for the fields of crisis mapping and early warning.

The Crisis Tracker team did an excellent job putting together a detailed code book (PDF) for this crisis map, a critical piece of any crisis mapping and conflict early warning project that is all too-often ignored or rushed by most. The reports mapped on Crisis Tracker come from Invisible Children’s local Early Warning Radio Network, UN agencies and local NGOs. Invisible Children’s radio network also provides local communities with the ability to receive warnings of LRA activity and alert local security forces to LRA violence.

When I sat down with Resolve’s Kenneth Transier earlier this month, he noted that the majority of the reports depicted on their LRA crisis map represent new and original information. He also noted that they currently have 22 months of solid data, with historical and real-time data entry on-going. You can download the data here. Note that the public version of this data does not include the most sensitive information for security reasons.

The Crisis Tracker team also provide monthly and quarterly security briefs, analyzing the latest data they’ve collected for trends and patterns. This project is by far the most accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive source of information on LRA atrocities, which the partners hope will improve efforts to protect vulnerable communities in the region. Indeed, the team has joined forces with a number of community-run protection organizations in Central Africa who hope to benefit from the team’s regular crisis reports.

The project is also innovative because of the technology being used. Michael got in touch about a year ago to learn more about the Ushahidi platform and after a series of conversations decided that they needed more features than were currently available from Ushahidi, especially on the data visualization side. So I put them in touch with my colleagues at Development Seed. Ultimately, the team partnered with a company called Digitaria which used the backend of a Sales-force platform and a customized content management system to publish the in-formation to the crisis map. This an important contribution to the field of crisis mapping and I do hope that Digitaria share their technology with other groups. Indeed, the fact that new crisis mapping technologies are surfacing is a healthy sign that the field is maturing and evolving.

In the meantime, I’m speaking with Michael about next steps on the conflict early warning and especially response side. This project has the potential to become a successful people-centered conflict early response initiative as long as the team focuses seriously on conflict preparedness and implement an number of other best practices from fourth generation conflict early warning systems.

This project is definitely worth keeping an eye on. I’ve invited Crisis Tracker to present at the 2011 International Conference of Crisis Mappers in Geneva in November (ICCM 2011). I do hope they’ll be able to participate. In the meantime, you can follow the team and their updates via twitter at @crisistracker. The Crisis Tracker iPhone and iPad apps and should be out soon.

9 responses to “Real Time LRA Crisis Map Tracks Mass Atrocities in Central Africa

  1. Just checked out LRA Crisis Tracker in action – A truly valuable and remarkable project. The Media Center provides on-the-ground evidence while the integration of the Congo Early Warning Radio Network enables real-time reporting – and these are just a few of the strengths of the Crisis Tracker map. Keen to see its impact on the conflict early warning and response side. To Patrick, and the Resolve and Invisible Children teams – if there is any way we can support the LRA Crisis Tracker initiative, let us know! I know there are many of us keen to support your efforts. Thanks for bringing attention to LRA atrocities and putting this continuing crisis on the map (no pun intended).

    • @Jeannine I work at Resolve and have come on to the tail end of the Crisis Tracker production. First of all, thank you for your support! The true extend of the map’s value is still unknown to us, but we are hoping its utility will blow us away. We are just edging into analysis and (as with all projects) will be in dire need of funding to continue. I would refer you to the websites of either Resolve or Invisible Children for financial contribution to the project, and any other support suggestions can be directed to my colleague Kenneth. I would be happy to forward those on to him:

      And thank you, Patrick Meier for featuring our project. We are humbled by the excitement generated within this community. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this movement.

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  5. Its probably been noted but the US State dept might be interested in this info now that they are going after the LRA

  6. Pingback: Real Time LRA Crisis Map Tracks Mass Atrocities in Central Africa « Voices from the ground

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