Crowdsourcing and Crisis Communication 2
Crisis mapping using the principles of crowdsourcing is growing. Recently, a children’s hospital in Boston created a crisis mapping project called HealthMap.org.
On this site the location of outbreaks of various viral illnesses worldwide are posted on a map in order to better fight potential epidemics. Not only does HealthMap obtain their information automatically from official sources such as scientific articles (for instance ProMED) and articles in the general media but they also gather information from sources in the community.
Before the team publishes a report on HealthMap, other employees who all have medical or epidemiological knowledge, carefully verify the information to assure that only the highest quality information is released. Outbreaks reported by the general population also go through a verification filter. Professionals analyze the plausibility of the report. For example, do the reported symptoms match the illness? Is the location verifiable? If GPS coordinates are available then it is checked to see if the person who reported the occurrence actually was near the area of the outbreak at the time the report was sent.
Clark Freifeld, one of the HealthMap founders, summarizes the advantages of crisis communication through crisis mapping by saying that “the overall advantage of HealthMap is to allow both public health officials and the general public access to rapidly emerging information on disease outbreaks around the world. The crowdsourcing component of HealthMap allows us to better achieve this goal, while also engaging users as participants in the public health process.”
HealthMap.org works closely with many other non-profit Internet sites such as Ushahidi.com, Crisismappers.net and HumanityRoad.org among others.