One of the primary functions of he United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) is to make humanitarian relief efforts, in the event of a natural disaster or social uprising, more efficient. Since the Haiti earthquake in 2010, social media has made easier for the average person to contribute to these efforts and there has been an overall increase in humanitarian support and volunteerism. Additionally, there has been a growing number of international NGOs involved in response. While all of this help is greatly appreciated, growth in volunteer efforts can also make coordination more difficult.
In their efforts to reduce redundancy, miscommunication, and digital “noise,” the Field Information Services (FIS) section’s products unit, headed by Information Management Officer Andrej Verity, partnered with a development team to create Humanitarian.ID (HID). Built in the spring of 2015, the goal of this new platform is to better connect and track respondents by allowing the user to create a global profile containing basic contact information, country of origin, area of responsibility and affiliated responding organization. Once one has a global profile, they can then check-in to a response operation with the simple click of a button, adding them to the operation’s master contact list and giving them access to the list. The platform has not yet been launched to all of OCHA’s IM offices globally, but was soft-launched in the Philippines earlier this year, and first utilized in response during the aftermath of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and extensively using after the April 26 Nepal Earthquake.
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work in Geneva, Switzerland as an intern in the FIS section. In order to prepare for the global launch of the platform, I created this visualization of all check-ins on the HID platform, to answer the simple question, “Where is everyone checking-in?”
Creating the viz
Having already created the Global Assessment Registry for OCHA’s other platform, HumanitarianResponse.info (HRinfo), I knew that I would need to follow a similar development process. However, because HID’s utilizes a secure API and is integrated with the HRinfo itself, I worked with an FIS colleague, Hayyaan Ahmad to develop a simpler script to extract the needed API data and insert into CartoDB. Using Ruby, Hayyaan pulled anonymous data from the user’s global profiles including their country of origin, check-in location, check-in date, role of responsibility, and organization name into a .json file. Using a Python script similar to the previously created HRinfo script, I then parsed this json and used the CartoDB-Python module to insert into CartoDB using SQL. Once the data was in CartoDB, I used the cartodb.js framework to build the visualization using a combination of jQuery, D3.js, SQL and HTML/CSS. Checkout the working viz at the top of the page or see the full-screen map here.