by Noah D'Mello

5 humanitarian crises where open source projects aimed to bring stability

Apr 25, 2016
Enterprise ApplicationsGovernmentIT Skills

Natural disasters, epidemics, terrorism, and uprisings—the world awaits with bated breath for the situation to turn to normalcy for those directly and indirectly affected by these crises. Here are five crises where open source technologists have helped, in some way, to bring stability in these hostile regions.

An annoyed user couldn’t fix his printer as the printer’s source code wasn’t available to users. This was the reason that led to the start of the open source movement. Organizations have saved billions of dollars and man hours by collaborating and innovating on the open source platform. The open source software has been used almost everywhere, and most importantly, technologists are taking full advantage of it when the world needs it to solve humanitarian problems.

Here are some humanitarian crises that technologists have built open source platforms for, just to give a new life to those badly affected by it.

Syrian Crisis: 15 March, 2011—present

One of the deadliest civil wars in recent history, the Syrian Civil War has claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and has displaced millions. The Syria Conflict Mapping Project, a work by The Carter Center and Palantir Technologies, has analyzed open source information with minute detail and mapped over 70,000 conflict events as well as the movements of armed forces and civilians. Humanitarian organizations directly get this information using a software tool by Palantir, which could help them mobilize volunteers and aid workers to conflict zones.

2007 Kenyan elections: 27 December, 2007—28 February, 2008

During the disputed 2007 Kenyan presidential elections riots broke out. More than a thousand were killed and about half a million were displaced. This was the birth of Ushahidi, a non-profit software company that developed a geospatial map of the riot regions in Kenya. The information was collected via eyewitness reports by email and text message. During the riots, Ushahidi posted several reports which were used by the international media, NGOs and government sources for further action. Ushahidi now uses its open source platform for various other humanitarian crises.

Ebola outbreak: December 2013 – January 2016

With around 29,000 reported cases of this virus in West Africa, the Ebola epidemic took almost 11,000 lives during the two years of the outbreak. A number of technologists came together to use the open source platform effectively. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team tracked infected persons and mapped the location of the maximum number infected persons. Another open-source platform, mHero, was used for contacting, informing, surveying, and polling health workers on information such as training materials, test results, and equipment.

Nepal Earthquake: 25 April 2015

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake, with the epicentre at Gorkha, and the multiple aftershocks was a major natural calamity in decades. The disaster left almost 9,000 dead, 22,000 injured and 3.5 million displaced., an open source platform, made around 2,000 reports in the aftermath of the situation with the help of the people around the country. These reports were later used by the government and Nepalese Army for relief distribution efforts.

Boko Haram: Active since 2002

On 15 April, 2014, Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group, kidnapped 276 girls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria. Fifty seven girls managed to escape, but it has been two years now that the remaining 219 girls are missing. During this period, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) have been tracking the movements of this terrorist group and examining how they have evolved over the years. The analysis from this project can be used by governments as well as military organizations, crucial for the defeat of Boko Haram.