Citizen Cyberlab

Response efforts have to analyse massive amounts of data that are produced during a crisis, an overwhelmingly difficult task. Crowd-sourcing has already been used during different events to help filter, categorise, and map this data, and has proved to be an invaluable resource. The Disaster Mapping pilot project will teach volunteers to perform more in-depth analyses of the media (photos, video, and audio) coming out of a disaster, analyses that would usually require expert skills or experience. To do so we must find means of transferring the knowledge and skills of experts to the crowd.

We will work closely with volunteer experts to develop a set of tools and learning materials to enable crowds to assist in data analysis. Disasters could include earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, along with more slow moving events such as drought, or even conflict. Analyses therefore could cover topics as diverse as environmental conditions, health, agriculture, and engineering.

Thailand Thai floods

Thailand floods October 2011. Image credit: Olivier T, UN-Asign

Once the framework, currently under development, has been established, anyone can become a volunteer. Download the Firefox plugin and send us relevant pictures that you find as you browse the internet.  Become a part of the community performing the analyses by creating an account on our server. On the server you will find applications covering a variety of different topics being deployed for on-going disasters that UNOSAT is working on. Find an application that takes your fancy and begin contributing. If you really want to become an expert, take one of the courses associated with each application to get a better idea of the context of what you are doing and to help you process the more difficult photos.

Our goal is to provide you with the necessary skills so that when a disaster strikes, you will be able to help us quickly and efficiently produce data from media. Along the way you will also pick up some skills that you may not have had before: how to analyse media and knowledge on disasters as well as other associated topics.

The Disaster Mapping project is a pilot project of Citizen Cyberlab, a 3-year project funded by the 7 framework programme of the European Union. The project, which was launched in November 2012, is managed by a consortium of seven partners: the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN); the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); the Imperial College of London (ICSTM); the University College London (UCL); Université de Genève (UNIGE); Université Paris Descartes (UPD); and the UK-based innovation consultancy Mobile Collective (TMC).

This pilot project is being developed by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNITAR/UNOSAT). UNOSAT has long made use of a variety of crowd-sourcing tools and crowd-sourced data to improve its own satellite based analyses of disaster situations. The Disaster Mapping pilot project builds on knowledge and tools developed through involvement in previous crowdsourcing projects such as ‘Geotag Libya’ and ’ForestWatchers’

The crowdsourcing applications are being built on Pybossa, an open-source platform for crowd-sourcing tasks.

While we are still developing the tools for the project, we are always happy to hear from people who would like to be involved. If you want to be notified of when you could take part in the project please register your interest with us now and we will keep you up to date with progress and opportunities to help out as they come about.