How the Crowd Could Take the Wind out of Somalian Pirates’ Sails
Piracy seems like an issue of the past, yet even today heavily armed pirates off the coast of Somalia have become an immense geopolitical problem. In the meantime, the issue has even earned itself a Wikipedia entry.
More than a thousand pirates currently threaten important international shipping routes as well as essential food shipments off of the Horn of Africa, leaving the ramshackle Somalian government completely overwhelmed.
Then along came a U.S. Navy project specifically tailored to the situation, one that uses the Internet community to rapidly develop defense strategies through online gameplay.
Code named “MMOWGLI“ (Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet), the Navy’s solution to Somalian piracy virtually connects online citizens and social media tools to allow players to create hypothetical pirate scenarios. Lawrence Schuette, innovation leader at the “Naval Research Office,” explains, “Farmville and MafiaWars captivate millions of Internet users for several hours at a time, but to no practical end. What would happen if these users knew they could change something?”
Crowdsourcing is the perfect solution for the problem. People from all backgrounds and with different types of knowledge can help in the fight against piracy by logging on and playing the game.
The simulations don’t focus on flashy audio or visual elements, but rather they display simple video and situation descriptions that help the players envision the scenario and craft a solution on their own.
After creating a situation, the gamers are asked to sketch out possible strategies for dealing with the pirate scenario, and then the community of users must agree upon the most sensible solution. The Navy had initially expected about 1,000 people to register: since the start of the pilot project over 7,000 people have participated. To facilitate the massive interest project’s server, and in-fact the server itself have been reworked to compensate for the overload. Despite the positive response, it remains to be seen whether any of these gamers will be able to take the wind out of the pirates’ sails.