23 November 2011
23 November, Geneva, Switzerland – The ICT4Peace Foundation and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), in collaboration with the International Network of Crisis Mappers successfully organised and co-hosted the 3rd International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM).
ICCM 2011, held at the International Conference Centre Geneva, CICG, Switzerland from 14 – 15 November, was the first to be held outside the US and also the largest so far, with over 400 participants in attendance. The conference brought together the most engaged practitioners, scholars, software developers and policymakers at the cutting edge of crisis mapping to address and assess the role of crisis mapping and humanitarian technology in crisis response. The Crisis Mapping field has emerged in the last five years as a dynamic web of advanced technology, user generated mapping, and new methodologies in crisis reporting.
The overarching themes of ICCM 2011 were validation, security, key partnerships between formal humanitarian organisations and informal volunteer networks, scalability of crisis mapping projects and the challenges resulting from as well as potential of mainstreaming crisis mapping into humanitarian relief and aid.
Delilah Al-Khudhairy on behalf of the European Commission’s inhouse science service, JRC and Sanjana Hattotuwa on behalf of the ICT4Peace Foundation delivered keynote addresses that were very well received by the participants. In her address, Delilah Al-Khudhairy repeatedly stressed the need to strengthen trust, reliability and sustainability of new sources of information originating from community sensing or crowd source mapping. She went on to note that “What we wish to avoid, particularly for the practitioner, is to have more information at the expense of having less relevant, less reliable and less trustworthy information” adding that “We must remember that one of the key success measures in emergency and humanitarian relief response is whether the ICT services and geo-information products or the novel volunteered crowd sourced information can or has helped to save more lives, to further improve the well being of affected communities, and to further increase our society’s resilience to future disasters”.
In his keynote address, Sanjana Hattotuwa reiterated the importance of these points and went on to draw in broad brushstrokes the new landscape of ICTs in humanitarian relief and aid work. Flagging enduring concerns over information overload, the technical challenges of curating crowd sourced data as well as enduring organisational challenges of more efficient and effective response in the face of rising expectations and public scrutiny, Sanjana also stressed the importance of sharing failure and beyond the telegenics, hype and promotional material around technology platforms and tools, the fact that crisis mapping matters only when it helps save lives.
Over 20 Ignite Talks on Day 1 followed the keynote presentations. At five minutes each, these presentations delivered a glimpse into the world of crisis mapping, and how far it has progressed from even three years ago. Presentations ranged from cutting edge technical innovation and social engineering to the protection of civilians in violent conflict.
On Day 2, self-organised sessions at ICCM lookedin-depth at a diverse range of issues and challenges, ranging from verification frameworks for crowd sourced data and quality standards to operational security for crisis mappers and opening up humanitarian information. All sessions were well attended and participants actively contributed to the discussions, making the interactions lively, probing and informative.
ICCM 2011, as planned by the ICT4Peace Foundation and JRC, brought together a more diverse participation than earlier ICCM conferences, with students and academia from across Europe including the UK interacting with practitioners with years of field experience, social entrepreneurs, UN staff, European and Swiss based NGO representatives as well as media, in addition to the many familiar faces who flew in from across the Atlantic.
Sponsors for ICCM 2011 included ESRI, John Carroll University, and the World Bank, who were present at the event. The conference curators on behalf of JRC and ICT4Peace were Tom de Groeve, Barbara Weekes, Patrick Meier and Jen Ziemke.
The next ICCM is planned for Autumn/Fall 2012, in Washington DC.