Crisis Commons – Open Source in Action for Disaster Relief

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been working to organize a CrisisCamp in Calgary.  It was the 1 of 4 happening in Canada this weekend.  Based on Barcamp, the focus was on solutions to aid the NGO”s and responders on the ground in Haiti. The code base is all open source and can be modified for other disasters that may occur globally.

Several CrisisCamp events have taken place globally since the quake hit Haiti on Jan 12th. Volunteers in cities across North America, Bogota in Colombia, and London, UK have coded solutions directly requested by non governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground, all via a website submission page. Visit CrisisCommon for further insight

Yesterday, Feb 6th, we had a moderate but productive turnout for our first CrisisCamp.  Lucky for me I had 2 project managers volunteer who helped with narrowing down the scope of projects we wanted to present to the group based on their skill sets.  We presented what we felt were the most viable and active projects (5 technical & 3 non-technical) to the group during our ‘All Hands on Deck’ planning session.  We were able to quickly select 5 projects that resonated with individuals and which fit their skill set.

Throughout the day we liaised with other cities who were also working on the projects, to obtain access to the source code, setup permissions, basecamp accounts, check in with project leads etc.

The projects that our group chose to contribute our time and code to included:

Haiti Hospital Capacity Finder – Kapab MedNet Situational Awareness Tool  which required python development

Translating OpenStreet Map documentation into French

Haiti Schools Situational Awareness Tool – built a prototype webapp in groovy/grails to capture and display data

Disaster Accountability Public Database –  – updated database info & may contribute future Drupal coding

Field Voices – requested by Plan Canada,a  team developed a java based web app to enable donors to see progess of construction projects in Haiti

An overview of all the projects submitted to CrisisCommons can be seen here:

At the end of the day, everyone felt they had made a significant contribution and would consider coming out for another CrisicCamp.  We have planned a second camp for Feb 20th.

On a final note, it was great to collaborate on projects with people in different locations via Skype & IRC.  I feel that efforts such as these truly exemplify the spirit of open source development, and look forward to playing an ongoing role in CrisisCommon.

Cheers for now

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