Sunday, November 10, 2013

Haiyan, mapping and disaster relief

Things don't look so great for large parts of the Philippines right now:

Earlier, the world's strongest storm battered the central Philippines across a 600-kilometre front, killing at least 100 people and forcing millions of people to flee to safer ground.
Captain Andrews of the Philippines Civil Aviation Authority says at least 100 people are dead in Tacloban in the eastern Philippines, one of the first areas to be hit.

You can see a few images in articles or read about people looking for family on reddit.

If you are experienced enough to contribute to openstreetmap, there's an effort to map every building in Tacloban taking place.

I've put in a few hours here, and it's likely more tasks will spring up as international organisations start expressing their needs - be it mapping of rivers, infrastructure or more.

One of the things which has struck me during recent travels to India is how similar other countries can be to our own experiences.
India, for example is well established in outsourcing IT and other related disciplines. The people who work here are broadly westernised: fashion, consumables and more are practically identical.

The main fear that tends to be expressed in tech forums like Slashdot is a 'wave of poor quality work taking food out of the mouths of hungry western developers'. While there may be some truth to this; the other, unexpressed truth is often the diffusion of wealth, knowledge and skills to a class of people who are just like us.

Often you hear that "the richest 1% have 46% of the wealth", but it's rare to think of yourself as part of the next richest; as a measurement per head of population.

Interestingly about India, many of the lower/middle skilled workers seem to come from various regional areas, trying to make it big in Dehli. The choice between uncertain but reasonable income and life in rural areas is obviously a tough one, but one many people make.

This means that the people you rely on while travelling are impacted by disasters in remote areas. I'd wager what holds for people in the service industry in Dehli is likely as just valid for administration workers in the Manila based outsourcing industry; another heavily relied upon centre of skills.

While sometimes people can be reluctant to donate money (corruption is anecdotally a problem in many areas); I feel quite good that I'm able to donate time to produce a high quality data asset; and that asset may very well be used to save or improve upon the quality of lives.

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