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Video - Crisis Mapping Helps with Disaster Relief

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Crisis Mapping Helps with Disaster Relief

Voice of America - June 30, 2011

After devastating natural disasters, mobile phone networks, satellites and other computer software are often used to help to pinpoint where help is needed the most.  They are crucial for the creation of crisis maps.

The power of the mobile phone and other social media became clear in the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  Just hours after disaster struck, Japanese volunteers used social media information  to create a crisis map.  The map indicated hazardous areas and emergency services.  Hundreds of people each day posted updates to the map on the Internet, including information from radio stations.

Crisis maps also helped with relief efforts in Haiti. Thousands of text messages provided information to international aid organizations about shelter, food supplies and sanitation.  A mapping team helped pinpoint search and rescue requests for people trapped in the rubble.

Sheldon Himelfarb is the director of peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. "The word went out that if you texted a certain short code number with your call for help, it would be captured, mapped and it would enable responders to help… We saw very quickly how the emergency responders of all sorts, from the Red Cross to the military to the NGOs started to rely on this map," Himelfarb said.

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Video - TEDxLansing-Theresa Bernardo-Save Yourself!

Uploaded by on Jun 8, 2011

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United Nations Report: Internet Access is a Human Right

Los Angeles Times - June 3, 2011

Internet access is a human right, according to a United Nations report released on Friday.

"Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states," said the report from Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations, who wrote the document "on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression."

La Rue said in his report that access to the Internet is particularly important during times of political unrest, as demonstrated by the recent "Arab Spring" uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, among other countries.

From the report:

The Special Rapporteur believes that the Internet is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies.

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Political Revolution and the Internet

Th mission of this Working Group is exploring the question, "Why Are So Many Countries Throwing Out the Governments Now?"  Why are the authoritarian governments that are trying to suppress the will and actions of those that would throw them out of office shutting down the internet in their countries?

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