Syria Tracker, the flagship project of Humanitarian Tracker, is the first open solution to combine crowdsource reports (such as eyewitness counts), machine learning, and data mining techniques of mainstream and social media on the same platform. It is language agnostic and can rapidly scale (through utilizing cloud technology, machine learning algorithms, and human expert curation) to deal with various sources of information and improve the ratio of signal to noise ratio. We believe our open platform is ready for use and can be scaled to provide a valuable solution for the sustainable development goals.
Based on monitoring the Syrian conflict, we understand that events unfold over time, and new complementary reports keep arriving from different sources. In the case of Syria, our platform offers an open solution that enables using and stitching crowdsourced text, photo and video reports forming a live map of the situation (Syrian conflict (2011-current), for example). Syria Tracker also uses data mining and machine learning techniques for scanning sources on the web; official news reports, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Weibo), blogs, etc. for reports about human rights violations in Syria. Since it was launched in April 2011, Syria Tracker has published more than 7,000 verified geo-tagged eyewitness reports from citizen journalists, mined over 650,000 news articles and more than 300 million social media posts, which provide a living record of the progression of the conflict and its aftermath. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and US Department of State – which all have high standards of proof – found the data produced by Syria Tracker acceptable for their purposes and stood by it publicly (including documentations of atrocities committed, rape, relief needs, disease epidemics (the first report on human polio re-emergence, tuberculosis, Leishmaniasis, and viral hepatitis)).
How does your innovation work?
Syria Tracker is a platform that allows people on the ground to submit reports about what is happening to them and around them to one place, from disease breakouts to killings and rape. Syria Tracker's technology platform and supporting network of global experts and volunteers can provide early detection, situation awareness and response system we proved in Syria and surrounding region but has a global applicability. This allows for quicker response time, capacity to collect crucial information during crises and disasters, and more efficient humanitarian response, enable real time information sharing, and ability to pinpoint hotspots or areas where aid is needed.
The global impact of our approach and open platform can:
Ensure timely response to crises and events
Create a more sustainable and efficient model for users
Coordinate relief efforts through information sharing and needs assessment: Sharing information on a public platform would help agencies understand what is most needed and leverage their resources to combine efforts and increase efficiency
Allow victims or those in need on the ground to communicate what is happening to/and around them. In the case of Syria, citizens were able to document disease outbreaks, relief, refugee needs, etc.) but also communicate their needs and connect directly with relief organizations.
Building on our specific experience with Syria over the past five and a half years, and our deep understanding of the current landscape of available solutions and their limitations, we want to enhance the open platform we developed to assure scalability, stability and add new features that emerged from the work in Syria and other places around the world with citizens on the ground and international aid organizations. We will have enhanced features for automated data collection and information sharing, offer personalized alert for those affected on the ground or for tracking progress of the various interventions, and offer interactive and easy to access user and visualization interface. All of these can be customized based on the event or goal we are trying to achieve and from our experience in Syria we know can work in places with limited resources or online access.