Philippine Relief Efforts Aided by Visual Analytics


Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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Great application of Text Analytics
  • 7/2/2014 2:26:26 PM
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It gratifies me to see social media analytics being put to good use in the form of assisting recovery efforts - determining where limited resources, and what resources, need to be provided to areas which may temporarily not have access to traditional forms of communication, but do have social media available to them. Being able to run simple topic extraction with minimal tuning can go a long way in a short time.

Re: Coordination
  • 6/16/2014 2:38:50 PM
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@Phoenix, I'm so glad you had such a positive experience. Sadly disasters can bring out the bad in some people, too -- and that makes an already trying time all the more difficult.

Re: Coordination
  • 6/16/2014 12:38:30 PM
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@ Beth It was an amazing experience. I'm also very grateful to the people who made the relief and rebuilding efforts such a success through their contributions. Most of the fisherman who lost their boats and others who lost livelihoods have managed to start their lives again. Some who depended on family members who were lost in the tsunami had to find new ways to support themselves. We live in a very generous society. In addition to the foreign aid it was the villagers who took care of their neighbours. Before emergency help arrived people living around the affected areas had already helped save many lives. Even the poorest of the poor had shared what they had. It was wonderful to see the human spirit survive and the outpouring of kindness and support for fellow human beings. It was truly remarkable.

Re: Coordination
  • 6/16/2014 8:22:02 AM
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@Phoenix, being able to contribute to the recovery in that way must have been very gratifying -- especially being able to link donors to recipients. Thanks for sharing your story.

Re: Coordination
  • 6/15/2014 3:33:23 PM
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@kq4ym At least in Sri Lanka things moved very fast. The mobile phone networks were working after the initial jam. Only some of the coastal areas were effected so the communication networks inland were still available. Sri Lanka is also a very small country so it was much easier to reach disaster areas.

Re: Coordination
  • 6/15/2014 3:21:37 PM
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@Beth I helped with the coordination of donations. Wherever possible aid was given out directly to the victims for their specific needs. For instance if it was a small tea shop owner we'd buy everything they needed to start a new tea shop. This way they can get back on their feet much sooner. The larger efforts were more general. And catered to the needs of the majority. I had a data base with everyone's needs listed out and individual donors were matched so that it was a more personal effort. I did the coordination from my home with my home computer using only excel and access databases. A donor would know who they helped and some people visited Sri Lanka to meet the victims they helped later on. After the initial couple of years I went back to work but this time for a management consultancy firm catering to NGOs. So I came across a lot of data that they had gathered. But the systems used for analyzing were not as good as what you get today. Excel and access databases were used by smaller organisations while large NGOs had their own systems.

Re: Coordination
  • 6/13/2014 12:00:51 PM
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Not having personally been involved in a disaster since Hurricane Andrew in Miami, I wonder how difficult it is to get the data distributed when phone lines and most other direct communication is spotty in disaster areas. It would seem internet access should be pretty hard to get at least immediately after a disaster and for several weeks?

Re: Disaster Relief analytics
  • 6/13/2014 7:49:44 AM
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Yes the numbers would be very good for keeping up with people who are still living in shelters and keeping them as safe as possible.  I do wonder if they are tracking how many people have left and where they settled as well.  When you've lost everything in a matter of minutes and have no real reason to go back I'm sure that changes how people view their future.  If they see no good reason to leave the new area then the new area needs to build up services to support their growing population.

Re: Disaster Relief analytics
  • 6/12/2014 12:08:00 PM
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@SaneIT, you make a good point about the scatter effect from displacement. These numbers would be valuable, though, when focused in on the temporary shelters set up for relief purposes or when used in combination with other data sources on factors like crime, overcrowding, unemployment, etc -- how has the effect of the displacement affected conditions overall? 

Disaster Relief analytics
  • 6/12/2014 7:39:42 AM
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With that many people still displaced I can see the usefulness of data collection to keep relief efforts on track.  I'm wondering though how many of those who were displaced want to resume the life they had before the tsunami hit?  The scattering seems like a natural consequence and that some people would rebuild elsewhere.  On the note of the illness that the data is showing this is a great tool to have.  The symptoms seem to indicate a few simple to fix problems in the shelter areas.  Now they have to decide how to go about addressing the problem and they have data points to look at to see if they are making a difference.  With that many people to look after I'm sure medical personnel don't see much change day to day because they are deep in the trenches but the numbers could show trends over time.

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