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Mei Cobb

By Mei Cobb

The Volunteer Spirit in the Digital Age

03/18/14


The Volunteer Spirit in the Digital Age main image

When disaster strikes, people want to help.  Whether they are near or far from the disaster site people want to do what they can.  Many times there isn’t anything that can be done when you are far away.  But that’s changing.

Last year, satellite imagery was used to help track tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma and the floods in Colorado. And now, DigitalGlobe is taking satellite photos 400 miles above the waters surrounding Malaysia and Indonesia and has enlisted the public to find the aircraft that took off from Kuala Lumpur and then disappeared.

With technology that can capture a detail as small as the home plate on a baseball diamond, DigitalGlobe has created a website for people to scour the images from the Gulf of Thailand and the Strait of Malacca for anything suspicious. By crowdsourcing the images among volunteers, more eyes are looking for possible clues. If you see something interesting, you tag it with a click. The objects of interest and the information are forwarded to emergency responders. The company used a similar “global crowdsourcing campaign” in November’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The large numbers of digital volunteers has overwhelmed the website, but I don’t think this is a sign of failure, but the sign of a public eager and willing to help. This volunteer spirit demonstrates our humanity and our connection to one another and across the world. This is what it means to Live United.

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