This past week all our thoughts and prayers have been with the people of Nepal. Though rescue efforts continue day and night, the death toll is rising, and many remote areas are still not accessible. With India and other neighboring countries, countless NGO’s and foreign governments, as well as the UN on the ground, doing their best in a race against time, we can only hope that may more are saved and that the herculean task of rebuilding their lives can begin.
Through it all, it has been heartening to see that Data has and will continue to play a crucial role in the whole rescue effort. We came upon a fascinating article in Wired, that talks about how to date, 2,182 digital volunteers have been trawling 14,700 km2 worth of high resolution satellite imagery to identify 3,128 damaged buildings. Using data and satellite maps they helped the first responders’ even before they hit the ground.
This is another reminder of why data regulation needs to be very carefully evaluated. We have seen that in the recent past, whether it was the Ebola outbreak or the floods in Kashmir or the wild fires in California, humanitarians have relied heavily on data to reach the people that need help the most. In fact there are organizations across the world using big data for humanitarian causes every day.
Read more about how Big Data Analytics Helped Control the Spread of Ebola
The data industry not only helps humanitarians do their job better, but it also helps people connect with each other in times of crisis. As soon as Nepal earthquake happened both Google and Facebook launched systems designed to help track or trace missing loved ones. It has been reported to have been updated 5.300 times in the first two days following the Nepal quake. Facebook’s Safety Check service automatically sends messages to people whose GPS data shows they are within disaster zones, and suggests they provide information which could help anyone who is looking for them. It also lets users provide information on people they are worried about, similar to Google’s service.
If you want to know more about how the Nepal earthquake was mapped in 48 hours read the full article in Wired. It really is a fascinating read and a must for all data enthusiasts.
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