Nethope

NetHope Summit 2014: Using Technology to Address Global Challenges

Each year, the NetHope Member Global Summit brings people together to focus on the smart use of technology to address the world's most pressing problems. Photo courtesy of NetHope.
Each year, the NetHope Member Global Summit brings people together to focus on the smart use of technology to address the world's most pressing problems. Photo courtesy of NetHope.

At this year’s NetHope Member Global Summit, held Nov. 3-5 at Cisco headquarters in San Jose, Calif., Direct Relief had the opportunity to learn from the front lines of technological change and to present on some of the key areas where we have been playing a leadership role on issues of technology and humanitarianism amongst our colleague non-governmental organizations.

Combining the Tech Sector with the Nonprofit Sector

As the pace of technical and social change continues to increase, opportunities like these to work closely with our partners in technology and humanitarianism will become more important than ever.

NetHope is one of the critical global forums for ensuring that our technological tool kits are tailored to meet the complexities of poverty elimination, global health, and humanitarian relief, bringing together leading technology firms like Microsoft, Esri, and Cisco with major international nonprofit organizations.  Rapid technological change continues to present new opportunities for global collaboration, enhanced efficiency, and improved understanding, as well as new challenges in bringing technology to bear effectively upon what often feels like an expanding and accelerating set of global crises.

Key themes of this year’s summit ranged from new trends in crowdsourcing and micro-tasking (using the Internet to enable thousands of distributed workers to participate in managed work flows) to ideas for integrating technology more directly into program operations to new data collection and evaluation tools to the inspiring role of NetHope’s crisis response team in extending bandwidth and data capabilities to remote areas of the Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.

Humanitarian UAV Working Group

On Tuesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to bring together in person for the first time a selection of participants in an emerging working group within NetHope on humanitarian UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones”).  UAVs have been put to work throughout the world on expanding the ability of disaster responders to see and understand the landscape of crisis response, building new maps of the world’s most remote and vulnerable places, monitoring threatened ecosystems, and (soon) delivering essential health and relief supplies to areas with seriously impaired ground transportation.

Our gathering on Tuesday was the culmination of a series of web-based events held since early July, in which I had the opportunity to introduce our colleagues to UN-OCHA’s policy work on humanitarian UAV applications, Patrick Meier’s leading role in establishing the humanitarian UAV network UAViators.org, the open-source hardware and software of 3D Robotics, and the remarkable advances by DroneDeploy in cloud-based UAV coordination and image processing.

Beyond the Member Global Summit

In the upcoming months, through the beginning of 2015 at least, the NetHope UAV working group will continue to work on education and dialogue around critical issues in humanitarian UAVs. Additional webinars will be hosted with partners from Esri, Singularity University, UNICEF Innovation Labs and others. Improved collaboration with the UAViators network will be developed. New ideas, needs and use cases from member organizations will be collected and shared. As the pace of technical and social change continues to increase, opportunities like these to work closely with our partners in technology and humanitarianism will become more important than ever.

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