Updated on June 16, 2010 by annlytical
Last month's WiredUK had an article that sent my mind a-racing in several directions. The article entitled "Organizing Armaggeddon" tracked how smart-phones with apps and geotagging will be used in the future for aid relief. Not that the Ushahidi platform wasn't enough of a digi-revelation, the first relief workers on the ground in Haiti tagged refugee sites with a GPS, what resources were available and what kind of aid was needed.
The article describes an aid worker:
"Chaperon stopped at several to talk with the locals. Clipboard in hand, he jotted down key indicators such as access to water, numbers of children, availability of improvised shelter materials, and whether any other aid outfits had already been there. He snapped the occasional digital photo to augment the reports and logged the location of each camp with a GPS unit -- critical in places like Haiti where there never were many street addresses to begin with.
Back at base camp, his findings would be added to those of other assessment teams, along with information from media reports and other sources, in an ever-growing database."
And the article also explains why natural disasters hit less developed countries particularly hard:
"Earthquakes are an even more lethal threat, particularly in poor countries. Portau-au-Prince and its environs collapsed because of the shoddy construction that is the norm in developing-world megalopolises from Mexico City to Chengdu."
Put bluntly, cities in emerging markets and developing countries have a lot 'slums' or 'squatter camps.' In some places these 'camps' are no longer camps-- they have been so long that they have become essentially permanent structures (see Robert Neuwirth Shadow Cities). In South Africa some squatter camps have become townships, some now becoming sub-metropolitan economies in their own right.
And then it struck me: what if aid workers know who was where already? Why couldn't they know that?