Where 2.0 and Crisis Mapping

by admin on March 29, 2010

Our own Doug McCune, SpatialKey engineer extraordinaire, will be presenting a session about Crisis Mapping at Where 2.0 in San Jose this Thursday, April 1st. If you are attending the event, please come to Ballroom III at 4:50pm.

Analyzing conflicts via maps is not new. For centuries generals and politicians have moved pushpins on maps to help guide troop movements, understand enemy positions, or help avert conflict altogether. What's new to conflict and crisis mapping are the tools now allowing military, politicians, and humanitarian groups better understand what drives political instability and violent conflict, and better address it.

One of the more rewarding uses of SpatialKey has been driven by a team led by Dr Clionadh Raleigh. Dr Raleigh and team members from the PRIO Center for the Study of Civil War created the ACLED (Armed Conflict Location and Event Data) database. The ACLED project team's objective was to provide a better read of conflicts by understanding the relationships between combatants, social groups, economies, and even natural phenomena such as droughts or floods. Ultimately their goal is to achieve a more stable, just, and peaceful world.

Thanks in part to funding from the World Bank, ACLED provides up-to-date, immediately accessible analytics and maps for over 50 countries in the developing world to help academics, the World Bank, NGOs, aid agencies and more gain insights on civil war dynamics. The database includes for example the date and location of conflict events, event types, rebel and other groups involved, as well as specifics on battles, killings, riots, and recruitment activities by rebels, governments, militias, armed groups, protesters and civilians, and much more.

The difficulty of creating a central database for crisis mapping is that it needs to bring together vast amounts of diverse information coming from a wide variety of sources. In technical terms: a data mess. Since neither Dr Raleigh nor the users of the ACLED database are trained GIS (Geographic Information System) professionals, they decided to use SpatialKey to centralize and analyze the data. SpatialKey is web-based and does not require special training or programming. All users need is an internet connection to immediately create highly visual maps and reports.

The benefit of using SpatialKey is that each agency using ACLED data can now create maps to help answer totally different questions, no data specialists required. Some groups need to better understand how to mitigate conflict in a specific area, others want to find the safest zone to place a refugee camp, and yet others want to understand the impact of possible floods and droughts on a conflict so they can arrange their resources accordingly.

This has allowed researchers to analyze data with more precision, as well as create a more collaborative environment to help the researcher community create predictive models of civil war. It has also helped challenge assumptions. For example Dr Raleigh says that many people considered civil wars to be primarily rural events, but SpatialKey has showed that these conflicts tend to happen close to larger cities, as rebel groups attempt to engage with the military. She considers that the combination of ACLED and SpatialKey goes a long way toward advancing the field- it provides the next generation in conflict analysis and crisis mapping.

If you cannot attend Doug's session, please read our case study on the use of SpatialKey by ACLED.

For more information on SpatialKey, or to start your free trial, please go to spatialkey.com.

Topics: data import, Mapping, examples, Visualization, solutions, crisis mapping

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