The Road Ahead for Information Sharing in Emergency Response

According to a new report, Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies (, humanitarians do not yet make the most of new technology and virtual teams to expedite emergency response and deal with "exponential" information flow.

"The humanitarian community, though relying on scarce resources in response, is still performing [basic] tasks that computers can handle," said John Crowley, from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and lead author of the report, as quoted "The machine which enters data into specific tables can pull it out, aggregate it, and put in a composite format. This is the vision that Tim Berners-Lee had for the Semantic Web for more than a decade. We are just getting to that ... and Haiti was the tipping point."

Commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Foundation, and Vodafone Foundation, the report examines the aftermath of the Haiti quake and makes recommendations on how the humanitarian aid community can work with volunteer and technical communities to improve response and accountability in future emergencies.

The communication gaps experienced in the Haiti response, as determined by the report, included:

"Humanitarian field staff had neither tools nor capacity to listen to the new flow of requests arriving directly from the Haitian citizens."

"… the deployed humanitarian staff had to build rescue and relief efforts largely in the absence of information about available resources," she added.

Distributed networks of volunteers and crowd sourcing could support more efficient relief efforts by filling some of the communication gaps.

The report recommended establishing a humanitarian technology forum in which representatives from the UN, humanitarian, volunteer and technical communities can hold open dialogue to identify challenges in "collecting and sharing disaster-related information."

For more information, read the full article: