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Are things really this bad? For the ongoing worldwide refugee crisis, the answer, says Ravi Gurumurthy, chief innovation officer of the International Rescue Committee, is “Sadly, yes.”
The horrifying stories of Syrian migrants drowning en masse as they attempted to cross treacherous waters in rickety boats have caught major media attention in the past, but the crisis extends way beyond those pointed tragedies. As the global refugee crisis persists, it’s become clear that old humanitarian aid models no longer hold up, forcing nonprofits and NGOs to look to tech to expand and overhaul the way they operate.
Tyler Radford describes how his organization, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, is tackling the challenge of identifying populations and areas of greatest need. “So many people in need are simply not counted because they don’t appear on a map,” he says. Yumbe, Uganda, on the border of South Sudan, for instance, looks almost entirely empty on a map, but it’s where many refugees fleeing conflict in Sudan have settled.
The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team is equipping individual volunteers to form “working groups” that use mobile technology to collect data and update maps. That type of mobile resource would also feed into a project Gurumurthy is working on with the IRC–a partnership with researchers at Stanford who have developed an algorithm to place refugees in a specific city based on their skill set and the availability of jobs they could do.
Read more about technology helping solve development issues by Eillie Anzolotti at Fast Company.