FLOSS, source code, OdBL… when I first heard about the EUROSHA project and Sahana, open source technologies were still a black hole for me. The humanitarian world stopped at the barbed wire fences of UN agencies and a plethora of non-governemental organizations which, to be sure, already had extremely effective modern means of communicating with their field staff to know exactly what was going on during a crisis and what should be done to respond to life-challenging needs of affected people.
Then, I realized it was far from being as easy and obvious as I (and the broader public) thought. Of course it was clear that the humanitarian community had been facing big coordination issues such as in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. But the Disaster 2.0 report I happened to read was an eye-opener about the ongoing mutation the humanitarian sector was experiencing.
On one side: long standing challenges regarding humanitarian information sharing and coordination; on the other side, a brand new world of online communities and open source platforms created to improve the quality of humanitarian response in a totally innovative way (for more info, read the report!).
But if the technological part is easy, far more difficult is to make it known, used and recognized as an efficient tool in the real world by people and targeted organizations.
That is one big challenge of our mission as EUROSHA volunteers.
EUROSHA (European Open Source Humanitarian Aid) is a European Commission-funded pilot project aimed at fostering information sharing within the humanitarian community in a disaster / conflict planning perspective. Our goal is to help improving the quality of humanitarian response and better prepare crisis-responders to face potential emergencies by increasing their level of information through open data and open source tools – including Sahana Eden.
By the way, when I talk about crisis responders, do not think only about international NGOs. Community-based organizations, district authorities, researchers… these local actors are generally forgotten when immediate action is necessary even though they are precious sources of information that can help the design, the delivery or the analysis of humanitarian interventions.
This is the background of EUROSHA project, which is today implemented by 26 European and African volunteers deployed in different crisis-prone countries in Africa: Burundi, Chad, Central African Republic and… Kenya! where I am serving as a EUROSHA volunteer. Mapping, collecting data, promoting open source for humanitarian purposes, training stakeholders and local communities to use it: these are our main activities in the field.
So I will be your eyes through this 6 month field mission in Kenya using and promoting Sahana Eden. Our eventful deadline is March 4, 2013 with both the presidential and general election; the humanitarian community is already getting prepared for potential new clashes.