Interdisciplinary Inquiry


Open data and digital mapping used for promoting justice initiatives

New technologies are making it easier to publish and share data. In turn, data can be used to create interactive maps, depicting crises in real time. is one example of this. When a food crisis ramps up, donors and humanitarian organizations must move fast to respond, typically involving coordinating information across working groups, situation reports, and informal networks.

It can be challenging to gather and share information about operations among various organizations working to respond to the same crisis. In the Sahel, the need to obtain data about the severity of the situation is critical for a coordinated international response. Rains only come once a year in the Sahel, last year they were below-average. Over 15 million people are at risk for food insecurity. In an effort to respond to early warnings, this tool is a collaboration to strengthen the data sharing in the region.

Thanks to new technologies like TileMill, and an increased adoption of open data, it is finally possible to put all the key data about the crisis -- from relief access routes to drought conditions and population movements -- in one place, openly available and mapped to give it further context.

A team at Amnesty International has also designed a map that uses TileMill. The Campaign for Global Justice, launched last week on International Justice Day, which celebrates the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) 10 years ago, asks people to demand justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The map, integrated on the campaign homepage, tells the story of where these crimes -- and their perpetrators -- are located as well as countries' support of the international justice system and payment toward reparations. is another example of how maps can be powerful tools to tell stories. The maps were designed with a narrative goal in mind. Amnesty's current work around the world and individual countries' support of the ICC are portrayed through map layers visualizing data on support of actions and justice. A final layer highlights gaps in donations to fund reparations.

The map also has a Twitter widget embedded so viewers can join the conversation and share the site -- combining elements more typically seen in advocacy campaigns. Check out the whole map to sign petitions demanding the arrest of fugitives and other opportunities to demand justice.

(This entry was partially cross-posted from the Idea Lab, a group weblog by innovators who are reinventing community news for the Digital Age)

Posted at 01:07 PM

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