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Haiti’s earthquake devastated not only lives. It destroyed whatever emergency services the barely functioning government had to offer. But in less than five days, a makeshift version of 911 sprung to life . It’s a striking story of how a few tech-savvy social entrepreneurs, receptive ears in the U.S. government and hundreds of Haitian Creole-speaking strangers crowdsourced from around the world were able to help people on the ground get food or medical attention. Hours after the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, 23-year-old Josh Nesbit (pictured right), who heads a non-profit delivering health care in Sub-Saharan Africa through mobile phones, thought that an SMS gateway would be critical in Haiti. He sent a tweet out asking for help .
I’m increasingly intrigued by the idea of applying Mechanical Turk services to humanitarian response. Mechanical Turk was first developed by Amazon to crowdsource and pay for simple tasks. An excellent example of a Mechanical Turk service in the field of ICT for Development (ICT4D) is txteagle , a platform that enables mobile phone subscribers in developing countries to earn money and accumulate savings by completing simple SMS-based micro-tasks for large corporate clients. txteagle has been used to translate pieces of text by splitting them into individual words and sending these out by SMS. Subscribers can then reply with the translation and earn some money in the process. This automatic compensation system uses statistical machinery to automatically evaluate the value of submitted work. In Haiti, Samasource and Crowdflower have partnered with Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS to set up a Mechanical Turk service called “ Mission 4636 “.
Hot on the heals of Brian’s excellent summary of the 4636 Project development efforts , I’d like to join in with a little info-graphic of sorts. My goal in putting this together is to present an easy-to-understand “big-picture” graphic that illustrates how a simple SMS, sent from a Haitian in need, can be transformed into a powerful resource that fuels the crisis response and recovery effort. A Quick Recap of Project 4636 And here’s the full graphic:
Update on May 10, 2010: “SMS shortcode 177 is now being used instead of shortcode 4636. #haititech”
Mission 4636: Providing Emergency Support to Haiti Through Mobile, Technology, Crowdsourcing, & Social Media http://envisionGood.com In this video interview, Brian Herbert of Ushahidi, Robert Munro of FrontlineSMS, Lukas Biewald of CrowdFlower, and Leila Janah of Samasource share background on how they came together, with the support of inSTEDD, DigiCel, local radio stations, and local NGOs, to deploy a critical emergency communications system to help save lives and provide emergency care to people in Haiti, following the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake that hit the country on January 12, 2010.Learn how people in Haiti and around the world tapped the power of mobile text messages, crowdsourcing, social media and technology to come together in support of Haiti.For more info on Mission 4636, see:http://samasource.org/haitihttp://ushahidi.orghttp://crowdflower.comhttp://frontlinesms.comJoin envisionGood on the web:http://twitter.com/envisionGoodhttp://facebook.com/envisionGood
Cross-posted on Patrick Meier’s blog iRevolution . What if we could communicate with disaster affected communities in real-time just days after a major disaster like the quake in Haiti? That is exactly what happened thanks to a partnership between the Emergency Information Service ( EIS ), InSTEDD , Ushahidi , Haitian Telcos and the US State Department . Just 4 days after the earthquake, Haitians could text their location and urgent needs to “ 4636 ” for free.