Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Crisis-Mapping the Sri Lankan Fighting

Is there a way to combine human and technological intelligence to figure out what is going on in a tiny section of Sri Lanka, which suffered heavy bombardment this past weekend? Can you, dear reader, help collect that information?

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has published satellite imagery which suggests heavy shelling and mass movement of people. (hat tip @mwmcelroy who works at the AAAS.)

According to the Associated Press (as quoted in the New York Times), "a government doctor said at least 378 civilians — and perhaps as many as 1,000 — had been killed and more than 1,100 wounded on Saturday and Sunday during intensive shelling of the combat zone on Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast, a boggy sliver of beachfront where Sri Lankan troops have surrounded Tamil separatist fighters." (Click here for the full AP report, which details three rounds of shelling on the hospital.)

Journalists report not being allowed into the area to report on what is going on.

This seems like quite a test case for folks who promote the benefits of crisis-mapping.

Crisis-mapping is an emerging technology that uses SMS or mobile texting plus other crowd-sourced pieces of information to map a crisis, while it is happening. The idea is to give folks on the ground as well as those far away some idea of what is going on and which areas are particularly dangerous in real-time. Click here for a video introduction to crisis-mapping from Patrick Meier, whose dissertation features a lot about crisis-mapping and who has been traveling the globe recently introducing folks to it.

I am asking my larger Twitter and blogging community for help in gathering resources. Will share the results here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Asia Chronicle is going to have a great special report on the role of race and identity in the Tamil conflict here in a couple weeks. Check it out over at