Crisis Communication, Crowdsourcing and open source codes

In one of our lectures last year,  we covered crisis communication and how it links in with the mobilisation of people, for example with the Arab spring and how people have new powers when publishing.


The Earthquake in china was the first time people heard of a major world event through Twitter and Mass Media. The first time networks joined together to give news of the earthquake before the geological society gave news/information on the event.

A good article to read on this would be the Crisis Communication theory, by Sellnow and Matthew (2013).

Crisis Communication and Digital humanitarian

Crisis communication was developed into a call to everyone that can join humanitarian campaigns digitally. An example of this was the Virginia Tech shooting Massacre. No one knew who had died so they checked Facebook updates to see who was alive. The Facebook crisis participants started to seek verification of updates, there was no anonymity to this and by the time the university released the names it was old news as the online communication had given the information already. Prior to, say, 2008 authorities gave crisis information  but now it’s no longer the case with digital platforms such as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook. However, authorities still have the desire to control the flow of information. For example, MMU won’t allow our lecturer to put student blogs on the university website. We have seen this before, where there have been attempts to shut down the internet by authorities in Egypt during the Arab Spring.

Digital Humanitarianism 

An example of“>digital humanitarianism is the Haiti Earthquake, where there was communication in a superconnected world, Haiti is one of the poorest countries but everyone had mobiles and they used SMS as a form of communication.Within one minute of the Chinese earthquake, a report was made, the response to the disaster was the quickest on social media than any other form. It shows how far social media has come and the popularity of social media.

TERA was tried tested in public health campaign helping to raise awareness used to support Haiti and was a 2-way communication system which was able to listen and challenge old analogue systems of communication. Tera was successful 96% if the time, and 74% received data and 83% action while 73% shared information on it. Due to TERA, Kibera in Kenya is on the map now due to real time information on maps, ‘render the invisible made visible’ The SMS  feature of TERA  was useful  in mangaka where 30% of the population are nomadic.

We also learned about ‘open-source’ code and  how source codes are used by computer programmers and you can have the source code of any programme. For example, Google Chrome source codes make programmes work, and the propriety codes, e.g those owned by google are not disseminated/accessible. However, Mozilla Firefox’s code is freely available, Microsoft Word is open  source code. The TERA app is freely available using open code.

In the lecture we also covered Kenya Blood donation websites which used crowdsourcing, this symbolised the transition from analogue to digital (it was the most recent crowdsourcing to date). The website used Micro-mapping which enabled digital humanitarism. We asked ourselves a question in the lecture: What if the world lit us by information rather than light bulbs? That would be amazing and it could actually work as tweets are revolutionary and it could be the new ‘nervous system’ for the planet, social media is used in disasters, how many tweets and statuses are relevant though? In our lecture, we learnt that  1.6 million time-shared tweets during hurricane Sharon (New-York)

Social media was used to crowd-source the locality of the Red Balloon challenge which took 8hours and 44 minutes to find every balloon.  There are a few degrees of separation between us all which is even less in a  crisis. That is absolutely amazing.

To conclude, I think digital humanitarianism  is extremely useful in this day and age if we have the communication tools to save peoples lives and help them survive then we should use them by all means