Crowdsourcing the Response to the 2010 Haitian Earthquake Disaster
September 8th, 2012

Besides the earthquake in January, 2010, Haiti went through other major earthquakes in the recent recorded history, namely in 1770 and 1846. Although the previous earthquakes were estimated as being even more powerful, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 was more damaging because the area was a lot more populated than in the past. Still, the response to the disaster was the fastest due to crowdsourcing and instant messaging technology.

The blog about Mission 4636, which is owned by a lot of people and kept updated by Robert Munro from when he was coordinating the Mission 4636 efforts, describes how a free phone number (4636), a lot of volunteer effort (international, from Haitians in Diaspora, but mostly local Haitians) and also paid workers played a central role in the recovery period that followed after the disaster. The affected people sent around 80.000 messages through 4636, asking for help. Those messages were translated from Haitian Creole (or Kreyol), geolocated, categorized by level of emergency and importance, and distributed to various emergency responders and aid organizations by volunteers and paid crowdsourced workers gathered together into what is now known as “Mission 4636”. By help of this coordinated initiative, hundreds of Haitians were rescued and tens of thousands received first aid, food, water, medicine and other kinds of help and services.

A synthesis of the “Mission 4636” report that will soon appear in the Journal of Information Retrieval straightens up a few misrepresented or unmentioned before realities (like the true percent of involvement from local Haitians when compared to international help, the significant role played by paid crowdsourced workers and the choosing of volunteers based on strong social ties), highlights the main findings, makes a few recommendations for future similar initiatives, and provides a few heartwarming testimonials coming from Haitians who volunteered for “Mission 4636” from Diaspora.

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