Disaster-mapping project helps spread reports of the Czech floods

Jun 13, 2013
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The Krizová mapa Česka, or Crisis Map Czech, an online disaster-mapping project created by a Czech television channel, has provided Czech citizens with up-to-date information about the flooding in the Czech Republic.

Ushahidi, a crowdsourcing website, recently awarded the map “Deployment of the Week” for its work sharing the stories of those affected by the floods.

Jaroslav Valuch, a new media expert that has trained for TOL and other organizations across Eastern Europe, helped create the map in conjunction with Czech Television (CT), the popular Czech public broadcaster. Valuch is a co-founder and one of the coordinators of the Standby Task Force – Online Volunteer Community for Live Mapping. In January 2010 he helped deploy the Ushahidi Haiti platform a few hours after the earthquake hit the country.

During the four-week emergency period, he became the SMS-processing lead. He soon became the Ushahidi Haiti field representative in Port-au-Prince, coordinating the operations with partners on the ground. In particular, he focused on incorporating Ushahidi dataflows into UN cluster systems and communicating with the Disaster Affected Communities platform. Valuch is currently Head of Campaign against Racism and Hate Crimes at the Czech Agency for Social Inclusion.

In an interview with NetProphet, Valuch said his time with Ushahidi and the Standby Taskforce, combined with the CT new media division’s experience from the floods three years ago, had led to the map’s creation. (CT had used a Facebook page to collect reports from citizens).

The map only goes public when Czech television declares emergency broadcasting. Once the map is live, anyone can submit a report to the site in a variety of categories, from weather conditions and videos to offers of support and aid.

The high volume of traffic the site received during the recent flooding surprised Valuch, who said that the interest was so strong that their servers kept crashing. Valuch and his team were also pleasantly surprised that almost every submitted report was valid, citing that only about five out of 2,000 were irrelevant.

Traffic to the map skyrocketed as soon as the floods hit. Screenshot courtesy of Jaroslav Valuch.

Valuch notes that the conception of the map was not originally intended to be a humanitarian response site, but rather a tool for citizens to report specifics about the crisis.

“The aim was to crowdsource stories and audiovisual content from underrepresented areas and give people a chance not to be just victims and witnesses, but partners in reporting as well,” said Valuch. “The content from the map was instantly fed into Czech Television Emergency Broadcasting.”

However, in phase two, Valuch reported that the team added a humanitarian aspect to the site that allowed people to post offers of aid and instance. Valuch said that the map now offered this feature “to assist in coordination of response efforts in order to prevent massive uncoordinated volunteer response that usually negatively impacts official systems of recovery.”

In case of additional natural disasters, Valuch said that his team had learned some lessons from the recent flooding.

 “There will be stronger integration of a variety of mapping layers provided by authorities and other entities, and an improved system of crowdsourced verification,” he said.

As for the future of civilian reporting, Valuch predicts, “We definitely will see the rise of citizen initiatives using social media and variety of applications for citizen reporting and response.”

About the Author

Molly Jane Zuckerman

Molly Zuckerman is an editorial intern at Transitions Online. She attends Wesleyan University and plans to jointly major in Russian Studies and Comparative Politics.
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