Collectively ‘crowdmapping’ can create detailed almost real-time data in a way that a top-down, centrally curated map could never replicate.
Crowdmapping first came to international attention through its successful use in the global disaster relief movement, where online maps have been used to address challenges ranging from tracking the availability of medical supplies in Kenya and Uganda to coordination of disaster responses in Haiti and Chile.
Perhaps the most prominent example of this is how, after an earthquake hit Haiti 2010, the Ushahidi crowdmapping platform was used to map more than 3584 events in close to real time, including breakout of fires and people trapped under buildings.
What crowdmapping platforms like Ushahidi and Crisiscommons do so well is help aggregate large amounts of user-generated inputs on a specific issue and use this to create close to real-time intelligence on events.
The maps are often created from text messages and social media feeds combined with geographic data or other open data. Many of these platforms are free to use and are often open sourced as well, such as Ushahidi’s Crowdmap and Swiftriver tools.
There are other exciting uses for the crowdmapping technology that go beyond disaster response. For example, ipaidabribe aims to map bribery and corruption, normally a hidden and therefore unquantifiable activity, and Fixmystreet allow citizens to map local issues ranging from potholes to confusing signage to bring it to the attention of public services.
Other examples include naprawmyto.pl and elva.org which enable communities to create continuous and constructive responses to issues that matter to them, from election monitoring to tracking human rights violations.