Powerful IT for disaster relief

When disaster strikes in the form of a hurricane, earthquake, famine or flood, information technology can play a crucial role in coordinating a local or global response. Earlier this month, Google hosted over 20 international humanitarian organizations in our Washington, D.C. office for a day of workshops to raise awareness and share experiences about how Google's geographic and data visualization technologies, such as Google Map Maker and the Google Data Visualization API, can aid relief efforts.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate kicked off the day's discussions with a talk about how agencies can leverage citizen-generated data and imagery to better coordinate response efforts, such as video from people using handheld cameras in the midst of a hurricane. He also cited Google Flu Trends as an example of how to glean public health insights from the wisdom of crowds.

After Craig spoke, the American Red Cross, World Bank and Plan International gave presentations on their own experiences using geographic and data visualization technologies in the field. American Red Cross, for example, is using Google Maps to display open shelters (left) and building damage assessments (right) on the map:

Several Google team members then led discussions and presentations on the myriad Google tools at the disposal of relief agencies: Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Map Maker and the Map Maker Data Download program for Africa, Google Labs Fusion Tables, the Google Data Visualization API and more. See, for example, how UNOSAT used Google Map Maker to aid flood relief efforts in West Africa by clearly mapping transport networks (for more examples of Map Maker in action, see here).

Below are a few photos from the event. Our next workshop, hosted in partnership with the United Nations in New York, will be held in November. If you're interested in more details, give us a shout on Twitter (we're @googlepubpolicy).