Crowdsourced Crisis Mapping | MYRA InSight Special Lecture (30) by Dr. H Raghav Rao, AT & T Chair, Professor, University of Texas

InSight Special Lectures (30th Edition)


Crowdsourced Crisis Mapping: A Study of Information Categorization of Crisis Messages during the 2010 Haiti Earthquake by Dr. H Raghav Rao AT & T Chair, Professor, University of Texas, San Antonio


August 10, 2016 | 4:30 PM| Athena Auditorium, MYRA School of Business


Crisis situations, especially those that are triggered by natural disasters or social/political conflicts, require increased situational awareness that could be of immense value to its management. ‘Get the Real Time Pulse’‘Collect Meaningful Data’‘Respond to Issues’; ‘Tell your story’ are the key elements of crowdsourced crisis management, said Dr. H Raghav Rao, AT & T Chair, Professor, University of Texas, San Antonio, and a Visiting Professor at MYRA School of Business, Mysore. Dr. Raghav Rao delivered an InSight Lecture on the power of Crowdsourcing and Crisis Mapping based on his study and research of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake Disaster that shook the world on January 12, 2010.


He began by saying that professional crisis mappers are online teams of people, – professional mappers, software developers, and data analysts, usually volunteers, who gather and provide data to people affected by disasters. They process crisis information to guide relief efforts of crisis responders.


Crowdsourcing – a sourcing model in which crisis-mapping organizations use advanced internet technologies harnesses the efforts of a virtual crowd to perform specific tasks and provides response organizations with near-real-time, categorized, and geo located data.


His talk focused on the objectives, methodologies, implications and limitations of crowdsourced crisis mapping. Its objective is to process and/or produce data that would be of value in the effective management of the crisis and lies at the intersection of three key elements —crowd, outsourcing, and advanced internet technologies.


Elaborating his research done on the Haiti earthquake of 2010, that killed hundreds of thousands, and displaced millions of Haitians, he deliberated on Ushahidi (meaning witness), an interactive customized software and mapping platform used for Data Collection, Management, Visualization, Automatic Alerts, – that READS and ANALYZES the CROWD in crisis situations and has changed the way information flows, said Dr. Rao.


He discussed methodologies and technological aspects such as – the Microworking concept – task modularization to fragment problems into modules to facilitate reconsolidation of solutions; they are structured for information management to draw reliable intelligence from raw data and rapidly produce it in a fast-changing and uncertain environment, he explained. The Emergent Norm Theory (ENT) –proposes that when people are faced with crisis situations, no norms, no leader exists, the crowd tends to create collective definition of the situation by collaborating with people; the ‘Milling’ concept, which entails the exchange of situational information among crowd members and directly influences the intellectual resources available in processing information; ‘Keynoting’ concept – denoting the collective definition of situations by crowd members and collaboration between crowd members – as tools used. He briefly touched upon Kickstarter – a crowd platform that encourages both ideas and monetary contributions to pledge their support to the global crowd funding platform.


Dr. Rao continued to say that while crowdsourced crisis mapping is a powerful technological force in crisis management, it has its own managerial challenges and limitations, some of which are delays and failures; miscategorization –attributed to diverse backgrounds, cultural norms, personal traits & behavioral aspects of volunteers, and the lack of training. Being a relatively new field, it engages volunteers’ existing skills, rather than field-specific skills, he added. Dr. Rao discussed the management aspects of digital labor deployed by Crisis Mapping Organizations which are motivators of individual involvement in crowdsourcing transactions.


Crowdsourced crisis mapping indeed represents a significant step to bridge the gap between the creation and sharing of knowledge and actions based on that information and is important to the future of disaster management, concluded Dr. Rao.


The trendy topic and lecture invited various questions and responses from the business management students. It was well attended by invitees, faculty, staff and students of the MYRA School of Business.

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