Good morning, it’s a real pleasure and honor to be here today to deliver the keynote address. Please consider my presentation as the beginning of a conversation, one that I invite all of you to join and participate in. I’ll begin this conversation by sharing with you some true stories about how global communications is radically changing the way we use maps in the humanitarian sector. But it will be up to each one of you to continue this conversation and change the world one map at a time.
Lets begin our story during the Great War
What means existed to communicate updates on the war from the frontlines? In the early days of the war, messages were carried back and forth by couriers on motorcycles. Radio sets of the period were too heavy to carry into battle and phone lines were easily destroyed. Runners, dogs, flashing lights, and mirrors were often used instead. There were also aircraft (called "contact patrols") that could carry messages between headquarters and forward positions, sometimes dropping their messages without landing. But how were the rest of us, the public, informed about updates on the war? One way was through maps printed in newspapers.
This British War Map was originally printed in the UK’s Daily Mail at the outbreak of hostilities. I came across it just last weekend while visiting a museum in Washington DC. According the exhibit, the purpose of the map was: “To satisfy the public’s desire for information about the war, newspapers published war maps that provided the locations and military capabilities of the warring nations.” But what about mapping information on wounded soldiers, civilian casualties, etc? What about printing new maps every day with updated information? Given the state of global communications at the time, such a map was simply not possible.
Lets begin our first map on January 12th, 2010, at 4pm, to be exact. We turn on the TV and see this…
Now, lets jump about 100 years into the future. 2008.
Gov downplay, media can’t be everywhere, but unlike 1914 we have a global communications ecosystem
I began mapping reports shared by a dozen people tweeting live from Port-au-Prince. I also mapped news reports from CNN and pictures emailed to me from the disaster affected area. I did this using the Ushahidi platform, a free and open source technology for live mapping. Did I have a plan? No. Did I know whether this would help anyone? No. Did I know the following would happen 10 days later?
That evening, a dozen friends showed up in my living room. I’ve looked at this picture a hundred times but only yesterday did I realize the number of different nationalities represented: American, Iranian, Norwegian, British, French, Czech Republic. They stayed up all night with me, mapping while the snow fell quietly outside.
Between them, these volunteers mapped over 3,500 individual reports from hundreds of sources and you can see just how densely populated the map was. Not only that, but the map was being updated every 10-15 minutes with dozens of new dots, this map was truly alive.
Red Cross: Changing the World, One Map at a Time
Changing the World<br />One Map at a Time <br />@patrickmeier<br />