ICT and Protection: Can Information and Communication Technology Enhance Humanitarian Action?

Representing the ICT4Peace Foundation, I will be part of a panel organised by the Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum at Harvard University looking at how, if at all, ICTs have strengthened humanitarian aid. The guiding questions of this web based seminar echo concerns, challenges and opportunities I have repeatedly raised on this blog for years. Some of the more substantive posts, which have been quoted widely have been,

As noted on the website describing the web based seminar,

This Live Seminar will examine questions and challenges pertaining to the development, use and effects of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in humanitarian activities. Increasingly used by humanitarian professionals in situations of emergency, armed conflicts and disasters, ICT has emerged as a component of effective and sustainable delivery of humanitarian relief. Yet ICT remains relatively under-theorized and utilized differently across contexts. Against the background of the increased use of ICT in humanitarian activities, this Live Seminar will address the following questions:

  • How have technological innovations including crisis mapping, early warning, and crisis informatics shaped the roles and responsibilities of humanitarian professionals?
  • In what ways has ICT affected the selection, collection, and dissemination of conflict-related information?
  • What metrics are available to discern the scope and significance of ICT’s effects on coordinating humanitarian aid delivery?
  • How has ICT transformed institutions providing humanitarian relief?

These questions will be examined through critical inquiry into recent innovations in ICT, their application, and their (potential) consequences for humanitarian professionals.

Naz Modirzadeh (Senior Associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research) and Claude Bruderlein (Director of the Program) hosted the discussion.

Panelists

  • Sanjana Hattotuwa, ICT4Peace Foundation
  • Salem Avan, United Nations
  • Olivier J. Cottray, iMMAP
  • Mark Dalton, ReliefWeb
  • Mike Hartnett, Global Relief Technologies, Inc.
  • Patrick Meier, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Dopamine and humanitarian aid

Boomers had the zipless fuck. We have the clickless give.

With a line like that, you know the article you’re reading is going to be irreverent, intelligent and incisive. How Twitter + Dopamine = Better Humans by Scott Brown on Wired is all three. It is also a cogent critique of the generation of humanitarian aid using technology. Brown notes,

Our brains release congratulatory hits of dopamine when we engage in selfless behavior — which we’re moved to do the instant we witness something awful. Melissa Brown, associate director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, calls this our “immediate altruistic response.” But, she notes, the IAR impulse is easily blunted by delay: “Generation X and the Millennials don’t want to go through the trouble of entering a 16-digit credit card number to make a $25 donation.”

This is in fact an aspect I have dealt with on this blog and in my work. In December 2009, I delivered a presentation today at a workshop organized by South Asian Women in Media looking at media coverage of disasters. In the first part, heavily influenced by Nicholas Kristof’s Advice for Saving the World, I suggested story ideas and angles better able to generate and vitally, sustain, audience interest in disasters and their aftermath, resonating with the submission that the ‘immediate altruistic response’ rapidly diminishes over time.

The presentation above is available as a full colour, high resolution PDF here. Not sure how references to zipless fucks and dopamine would have gone down at this workshop though…

A huge thanks to Bill Warters for sending me this link.

Cyclone Nargis: Lessons and implications for ICTs in Humanitarian Aid

Almost a year ago, in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, myself and others at the ICT4Peace Foundation were copied to a spate of emails that included voices from inter-governmental, non-governmental, private business and commercial organisations, academia, former field level practitioners and others on how best to respond to the monumental challenges of information and communications technology provision to support the humanitarian operations.

The Foundation wanted to ascertain what was going on and commissioned me to do a rapid assessment of who was doing what and a media monitoring exercise, to determine the cultural and political context that framed aid delivery.

Download the report here. Download the update to the report here.

Continue reading

Cutting through crowdsourcing

Paul Currion has a very interesting post that cuts through a whole lot of codswallop on the potential of crowsourcing in disasters. His pointed post refers to two by Patrick Meier, entitled Internews, Ushahidi and communication in crisis and Ushahidi: From Croudsourcing to Crowdfeeding

I consider both to be significant thought-leaders in the domains of humanitarian aid and in particular, the use of technology for relief and effective response. Paul notes, inter alia, that,

Because crowdsourcing is unfamiliar, it’s untested in the field and it makes fairly large claims that are not well backed by substantial evidence. Having said that, I’m willing to be corrected on this criticism, but I think it’s fair to say that the humanitarian community is legitimately cautious in introducing new concepts when lives are at stake.

As I noted in response to Paul’s post and referring in particular to the vital challenge he presents of having to prove the direct benefits and impact of ICTs in humanitarian aid,

Just to note that not everything generated from the field, and subsequently verified to the extent possible, is for decision support in the present context. Much of what I and others are able to gather today from the field in Sri Lanka (and information from the ground is precious and dangerous to produce) is bearing witness, silently, at what is going on.

Used for parochial optics and propaganda, the value of crowdsourcing soon diminishes. This is not to say that information cannot be used howsoever their handlers choose to. I am merely trying to respond to your question as to whether a Twitter feed can shape events. Perhaps not the one you point to (but then again, who knows?) but the technology certainly can. Used to bear witness, cognisant that there is no one truth and that a multiplicity of viewpoints is better than fewer, technologies such as Ushahidi, Twitter and many others help a great deal in my line of work – which is self-effacing and outside the domain of headlines and handshake moments.

Making victims witnesses is possible through new technologies. We are just discovering how.

Please join the discussion here.

Updates – 1st April 2009 | 6.21pm +5.30GMT
Paul responded to my comment by saying,

The general principle of collecting detailed information about human rights violations and making them available in some useful form is not controversial. What bothers me is whether a) “crowdsourcing” as a methodology yields more information benefits than costs and b) how useful this information actually is in the form(s) that it will be collected. Our starting position is that technology can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of our work; I just want to see somebody explain to me exactly how this technology will make the specific difference that is claimed for it. So far I haven’t seen that explanation.

I reciprocated by saying,

This is a shared bother. From Ushahidi’s own Swift River concept to the ICT4Peace Foundation Crisis Information Management Demonstrator that seeks to augment the platform with more robust information qualification and analysis tools (and for a closed, trusted network – not public writ large) there’s work afoot to make sense of the noise of crowdsourcing.

I like the term though, but that’s because I live (and have grown up in) a country hugely partial to violent censorship. More eyeballs on events and processes is for me refreshing, even if they are by definition partial accounts. The danger in crowdsourcing though is that they may not be seen as such, and this is where a single SMS can exacerbate violence hundreds of miles away – rapid onset disasters facilitated by new media!

As for your second points – it depends? A “camjo” with a mobile phone who captures footage of police abuse can post this video to Witness to create a storm of advocacy against police brutality. Quieter initiatives such as oral histories through audio and video, or even celebrating champions within Govt who stand up against corruption, or document, through the eyes of children armed with mobiles, life in conflict or with HIV / AIDS – these can be moving, powerful narratives that lead, over time, to social change. Eyeballs on Darfur through Google Earth catalyses and sustains limited and transient global interest in claims of genocide. An initiative like Wikileaks can support whistleblowers and strengthen transparency and accountability in polity and civil society, including in NGOs.

My gut instinct, forged through the bloody difficult work I do is that tech helps, but I would be the last to suggest that it is a panacea. The metrics of measuring impact, or put another way, building up the evidence base of ICTs actually “making the specific difference that is claimed for it” would be an interesting study for luminaries in the field like you, Tom and Paul to take on?

I’ve also responded to some key points brought up by Tom Longley.

This will be my last update, but I’m glad Paul’s original post has stimulated such a lot of great comments.

Facebook for humanitarian aid?

Eduardo Jezierski, the brilliant Director of Engineering from INSTEDD and I recently exchanged some emails about the usefulness and advisability of Facebook as a platform for humanitarian aid.

First some context. The conversation arose after I emailed him details of the BBC’s recent expose of Facebok’s flaws with its applications platform / framework, which is exactly a year old to date. 

INSTEDD’s official launch earlier this year had details of a Facebook application for humanitarian aid workers I had some concerns on and noted that:

Though the Directory application has a clear disclaimer that information on it will not be shared beyond that which is made possible by Facebook, it’s still the problem for me. Facebook is not a platform I trust with mission critical and highly confidential data and though I have begun a citizen journalism forum to complement Groundviews on it, I’m still to be convinced that it is a platform that demonstrates the potential for mission critical applications without compromising information security.

Eduardo then replied that it was the concept, not Facebook per se, that they were interested in. Fair enough. So here’s the text of our emails, published with Eduardo’s permission.

From: Sanjana Hattotuwa  
Sent: Monday, May 19, 2008 9:31

As the BBC’s technology programme Click recently uncovered, Facebook is outrageously open to applications harvesting information that you have classified private. What is more disturbing is that an application installed on a friend’s account can remotely harvest your private data without you even having to install the same application. 

See http://www.bbcworld.com/Pages/ProgrammeFeature.aspx?id=18&FeatureID=726

and read Click’s advice on how to minimise the risk of exposing your private information here – http://www.bbcworld.com/Pages/ProgrammeFeature.aspx?id=18&FeatureID=725 

Please pass this to all your Facebook friends. 

On May 19, 2008 Eduardo Jezierski wrote:
Thanks Sanjana. One of the issues is that the security works both ways –the same way an application is deployed in another server meaning facebook cant get any insight into it is a strength , imo. For example IF someone was crazy enough to do a ‘friends nearby’ app like we did, you would know its up to the app provider (and not facebook!) to secure that info (which given FB’s risks, is a pro if you know the app provider)
Thoughts?

From: Sanjana Hattotuwa
Sent: Monday, May 19, 2008

Hi Eduardo,

Not sure I follow you.

The BBC team has clearly demonstrated that an app, once accepted, can harvest information marked private. It has also demonstrated that this same app can harvest this information from one’s friends. The exercise also brought out clearly the fact that Facebook does not and cannot guarantee that all apps that run on the platform abide by its app design / development and privacy guidelines. Their response to the BBC to me seems very complacent of a very real risk brought about by (a) technical deficiencies, for which Facebook is 100% responsible (b) the psychology of social network which leans towards maximum disclosure in an essentially insecure environment, which of course is more linked to user education.

The point is that FB as a platform is essentially insecure – see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/25/facebook_exposes_private_pics/

To submit then that an essentially insecure platform, where privacy is a big question mark, is to be used as a platform for humanitarian action, where both of these are a sine qua non, is a stretch. What do you think?

From: Eduardo Jezierski
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2008

“The BBC team has clearly demonstrated that an app, once accepted, can harvest information marked private. It has also demonstrated that this same app can harvest this information from one’s friends. The exercise also brought out clearly the fact that Facebook does not and cannot guarantee that all apps that run on the platform abide by its app design / development and privacy guidelines.”

Agreed – the information they get access to is Facebook’s details information (eg your physical address, if you put it there!) NOT THE INFORMATION MANAGED BY OTHER APPS! Because that lives in another server.

“Their response to the BBC to me seems very complacent of a very real risk brought about by (a) technical deficiencies, for which Facebook is 100% responsible (b) the psychology of social network which leans towards maximum disclosure in an essentially insecure environment, which of course is more linked to user education.”

The issue is that FB doesn’t help with the education. They should have more education of users and more ‘consequential’ feeling in the UI to allowing an app access to my details! Does ‘super poke’ require access to personal details to throw you a flying sheep? No!

The point is that FB as a platform is essentially insecure – see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/25/facebook_exposes_private_pics/
Ughhh!That’s a terrible noobie security bug. They have parts which are quite smart but got bit by this – unbelievable. Security is tougher than most people think and most app devs don’t even know threat modeling or think of threats, assets, countermeasures, attack paths, or security patterns.

“To submit then that an essentially insecure platform, where privacy is a big question mark, is to be used as a platform for humanitarian action, where both of these are a sine qua non, is a stretch. What do you think?”

I think you can build apps – secure as hell, with threat models pouring out the creators’ ears – that use FB information e.g. to figure out contact networks.- and that are not built on the FB platform. This is why social network portability is so critical to Social graphs being of any use in humanitarian world. Today not one web host can be the platform of any reasonable solution – I see twitter fireeagle facebook younameit as building blocks (and very immature ones for humanitarian action still!) I would never store anything that is sensitive and isn’t already public in FB. I would not use FB as a platform to build a humanitarian app on. I would it as an information source to such applications, a plug-in, again with all the user education AND technical testing required to make sure you can’t expose information, elevate privileges etc because of that plugin.

Anecdotally that was one of the architectural experiments of our FNB app – can we keep data separate and secure and just query FB for contact graphs. Having the FB app expose the UI was just a shortcut. We could have done it off our own servers, violating FB’s TOS by the way…

To summarize we agree on not using FB as a platform, on top of that I think FB has information to be mined that could be useful for humanitarian action.

It didn’t occur to me when I wrote it, but Eduardo makes an important point. The BBC did not prove that applications can steal data from other applications, just the general FB profile of the person who installed it and her / his friends. So each application on the FB platform is, until such time it is proven otherwise, secure. 

I wholly agree with the other points that Eduardo makes about the design and engineering considerations of the Facebook platform.

In attempting to bring humanitarians together towards that Holy Grail of a coordinated and collaborative first response, I wonder whether we need to look at social networking platforms as they exist today and create a similar yet secure architecture anew or suggest that they, in the form they are, can be leveraged for such a purpose. Or perhaps neither. Perhaps the way forward is to not get us all into a single platform, but with technologies such as Mesh4x developed by INSTEDD itself allow us to use a range of platforms as we see fit and yet exchange vital information in a timely, seamless, sustainable, device and platform independent manner.

Mesh4X

Incidentally, as noted at the beginning, it’s exactly a year since Facebook introduced its application platform to the world. Jason Kincaid at Techcrunch has a very interesting article that looks at the launch hype and the reality a year hence

Questions on ICT4Peace: A response to Paul Currion

Paul Currion’s blog post in response to one on the ICT4Peace Foundation that appeared recently in Fortune Magazine is delicious food for thought. There are a whole range of questions and challenges Paul addresses and proposes, of which I thought I would respond to a few in my capacity as a practitioner of ICT4Peace in Sri Lanka. I have, in fact, learned tremendously from Paul’s own work and it’s because of the report he was part of that I am today associated with some of the work on ICT4Peace at a global level.

To make it explicit however, though I am as Paul notes associated with the ICT4Peace Foundation, these thoughts are my own, not necessarily reflecting the opinion of the Foundation and primarily based on work in the field in the area of ICT4Peace in a country that’s going no closer to peace, for over 8 years.

  • Paul notes that,

“Daniel is entirely correct that technology isn’t being used as effectively as it could be in our work, and correct that the issue isn’t the technology itself. He believes the problem is one of leadership – I believe that the problem is one of management, but I’m willing to believe that we’re talking about roughly the same thing.”

  • I think it is both a question of leadership and management. I understand leadership as those who are responsible for decisions to share information they have or have access to. Leadership therefore is seen (or not) across many levels in an organisation. Accordingly, the awareness of and approach to knowledge sharing within and between organisations is is deeply influenced by the attitudes and practices of the leaders they work with and report to. When these leaders are averse to information sharing, my experience is that no matter what technology you introduce to the workflow and how easy it is to use, they will simply not avail themselves of it to the fullest and in a sustained manner.
  • Often, it’s the senior (in terms of age as well as experience) leaders who are the most resistant to ICTs and the idea of ICTs, which holds them and their work more accountable within the organisation, its donors and most feared of all, amongst their beneficiaries. Unless clear, immediate and sustained benefits of using ICTs are seen by these leaders, in a manner that does not vitiate, inter alia, their reputation, the office they hold, their social standing and the organisation’s ability to secure funding, they will not buy into it. The prospect of having someone from the field make direct contact with donors by-passing implementing agencies is from experience precisely what makes many organisation’s fear ICTs, instead of embracing them.
  • Paul’s right that it’s not always the IT administrator who is the gatekeeper. But I do believe that its often a case of bad or inadequate leadership, and not just at the senior levels of an organisation, that significantly contributes to the confounded problem of information sharing. This failure of leadership in an organisation at many levels requires a change in management style to bring in, encourage and meaningfully support new (young, but not necessarily so) thought-leaders more attuned to the potential of ICTs in peacebuilding, conflict management et al.
  • Paul goes on to maintain that:

“The part I disagree with here is that it’s not the IT people who are telling their directors what information they have or don’t have, since IT people in general have no involvement with the information that goes through their systems. It’s the programmes and operations people who are responsible for this, and also for determining what they need to know. The thing is, we already know what we need to know – it’s just that we’re not very good at a) getting it and b) sharing it.”

  • From experience, because of the relative ignorance / suspicion of ICTs by leadership at all levels of management (from the field to the HQ), IT administrators are often the de facto architects of an organisation’s ICT policy, including what systems to procure and use on their networks. Many of these IT administrators are well trained in robust, industry grade applications and network management, but don’t always understand the demands placed on ICT systems and the importance of appropriate technologies in the context of peacebuilding. You can have for example, wholly inappropriate software and hardware combinations (that look great on paper), prone to failure, for mission critical processes such as Ceasefire and Human Rights monitoring and civilian protection.
  • My experience is that new media and new technologies, ranging from wikis to mobiles (and software like FrontlineSMS), from blogs and collaboration suites like Groove Virtual Office, are unknown to many IT administrators. What is more, when introduced to them, their first and sadly, sometimes only reaction is that they constitute threats to established network security and information exchange protocols, thereby severely vitiating the ability of progressive thought-leaders in organisation from sharing information and knowledge.
  • On the other hand, my experience is that programme and operations people also don’t always like to share information. They may well be forced to on occasion, but the best I guess one can expect is for precisely that – ways in which a shared and urgent goal (such as immediate disaster response) can be coordinated and designed in such a manner to facilitate intra and inter-organisational collaboration. When Paul says that we aren’t good at getting what we know we need to know and then sharing it, he hits the nail on the head. My experience is that many often concentrate on getting the information they need, but once they do, don’t share it to others who may also benefit. Ergo, I tend to disagree with Paul when he says that:

    “I’m not sure that groups “resist” sharing information, because that suggests that they’re actively hoarding it – and my experience is that they’re usually quite happy to share it, but they’re a) busy responding to a disaster and b) the mechanisms aren’t in place to share.”

    • I wish I could believe the same! Honestly though, NGOs in Sri Lanka and in Nepal, two countries I have significant experience in working in from HQ to field level on ICT systems and processes deeply linked to their respective peace processes as well as donor coordination, humanitarian aid and human trafficking, simply do not want to share information. It’s as simple as that and the reasons for this are complex and inter-weaved with the protracted violence and the constitution of NGOs themselves. The levels of resistance may differ from tier to tier and from field to HQ, but its generally a given that these organisations will not collaborate or coordinate, even when working on the same issues, in same geographical footprint and oftentimes networking with the same grassroots organisations.
    • There is a another dimension that changes this sad reality and it is donor funding for consortia and NGO networks specifically aimed at the creation of knowledge sharing mechanisms. My recent experience with the human rights monitoring, advocacy and reporting platform and on-going work with a violent crimes victims referral system (for use in Human Rights abuses as well as human trafficking) are revealing in this regard:
    1. Organisations want funding, even if they don’t need it. If funding is tied to collaboration, they will bear and support it for as long as the funding lasts. If such collaboration is based on ICTs, they will readily adopt new technologies but with no real commitment to using ICTs after the project ends.
    2. Organisations often grossly underestimate the human resources and management considerations of ICTs for networking, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Human resources are scarce in conflict zones that see high staff turnover in NGOs. This has a direct impact on the adoption and sustainability of ICT mechanisms.
    3. Collaboration between unlike-minded organisations (which ironically may be working on the same issues though with different approaches) is rarely strengthened by ICTs alone. Organisational cultures can take years to change when the staff are entrenched, or can change radically when staff turnover is high – ICTs can help facilitate the former and help create institutional memory in the case of the latter, but people, above all ICTs, matter the most. The right people at the right place at the right time (and it happens more often than one expects!) can create new cultures of work and knowledge sharing through ICTs that organisations find difficult to set aside even after they leave.
    • Paul makes one final comment that I found interesting. He says that:

    “If I had to sum up how I feel about this article and about ICT4Peace – I’m glad that Daniel is raising the visibility at the diplomatic level, but I’m not convinced that those levels are where the change will take place.”

    I don’t think it’s an either / or proposition. Change will be fuelled by the inevitable and rapidly growing use of technology on the ground by beneficiaries and victims. There’s no escaping this – technology will hold all those involved in peacebuilding and humanitarian aid more accountable, and by extension compel as never before organisations and governments to be more responsive in disaster relief. On the other hand, the UN and many government’s are parochial, lethargic beasts, hugely resistant to change.

    The wonder of a bureaucracy however is that when you do facilitate change at the top, it trickles down to all operations right down to the lowest tier. Yes, it is a singularly challenging process takes longer than is necessary. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it employs a language of expression that is alien to the rest of us. Yes, it’s not easy, requires money, effort, human resources, political clout, diplomacy and all manner of other tricks to cajole, convince or compel those who hold the power to change. And yes,there’s no guarantee of success.

    But I’m hopeful that things will change for the better.

    In my first response to the report on ICT4Peace that Paul also worked on, I noted that,

    The greatest contribution of this report lies in bringing to the world’s attention some of the wonderful and valuable ICT initiatives that have contributed to all aspects of peacebuilding in some of the world’s worst hotspots and for research into peace in general. I hope the report and it partner website will continue to forge ahead with new thinking on this area of pivotal importance.

    I also hope that future iterations of the report and research in this area more fully engages with those who use ICT daily in their trysts with peace.

    Special thanks to Paul Currion and the great work he does behind the scenes to promote this work.

    Two years on, I’ve only come to believe more, through my own work, that ICT4Peace, far from being an ill-defined field of practice and research, is actually well defined, maturing apace and truly useful, speaking as someone responding to violence on a daily basis.

    Paul’s continued support and work in this area is an inspiration for us all along with the vision of Daniel Stauffacher and the other authors of the report. They are the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.

    New media mantras

    The UN +5 OCHA Symposium was another instance where the power of new media (Web 2.0, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, wikis, SMSs and that sort of thing) was repeatedly touted as an innovation that would change the face of humanitarian response as we know it.

    The heady optimism of a revolution in humanitarian affairs using mobile phones is tempered by others who caution against seeing them as a panacea to all that ails aid work today. However, in general, there is consensus that mobile communications helps, in a way never possible before, the humanitarians speak with affected communities and vice versa. My colleague Nalaka Gunewardene has posted a hilarious account of a new media tsunami that is actually quite revealing in the attitudes of the humanitarian community represented at the +5 Symposium and their understanding of and approach to new media (save for a few on Panel 5, the rest were largely oblivious to the manner in which these technologies were changing crisis communications and emergency response).

    Neha Vishwanathan, from Global Voices Online, made what I thought was a superb presentation on new media, the video of which on the Symposium website unfortunately does not capture her Powerpoint slides (though they are available separately here).

    It’s not however an easy road to mainstream mobiles and new media into sustainable, timely and useful humanitarian action. As I note in Citizen Journalism and humanitarian aid: Bane or boon?:

    However, success stories such as this run the risk of romanticising the gravity of problems that bedevil post-conflict democratic reform. The deep-rooted power of politicians in rigid social structures, casteism, a clientelist political architecture, rampant nepotism and corruption, among others, temper the progressive social transformation promised by the New Media and Citizen Journalism in particular. Scalability is another problem – projects that show great potential when funded often join a graveyard of well-intentioned initiatives when the funding dries up. Countries such as Sri Lanka are still bedevilled by the lack of standards based swabhasha data input frameworks that in turn strangle the awareness and growth of new media content, such as blogs, in Sinhala and Tamil. As a result, contrary to its moniker, citizen journalism today shows an urban bias, is mediated in English and, inescapably, elite. This will need to change and soon.

    Nalaka’s proposed new (and traditional) media as a “conscience” of aid workers, which I broadly agree with. Given the traditional media’s own bias, constraints and ownership, I don’t know how effective it will be in this role, but citizen journalism that adheres to professional standards is certainly a way forward in this regard, particularly in holding aid workers and processes accountable to beneficiaries.

    While repressive governments as well as many aid organisations can and will attempt to curtail the growth of content that criticises their work and service delivery, it is inevitable that beneficiaries are going to use technologies such as mobile phones to speak directly with the rest of the world. And while this conversation may be raw, it’s an important development that challenges the control of information by a few.

    A conversation with one of the best known thought-leaders in citizen journalism, Dan Gilmor, during Strong Angel III brought out a number of points in the use of new media in humanitarian aid:

    Dan emphasised the point that new media does not in any way take away from an emphasis of traditional media in disaster relief. Both old and new media he felt had equally important roles to play. He cautioned against the cacophony of citizen journalism – the tragedy of the commons as he called it, where information anarchy led to the distrust of citizen journalism driven information generation and dissemination and generally fed to the chaos in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Instead, he said, citizens journalism and new media needed to strengthen the relief process by providing decisions makers with information from the grassroots.

    Listen to the full podcast of our conversation here.