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Tufts Crisis Mapping Class » Class 5

Class 5

Crisis Mapping without Maps: Frontline SMS
April 5, 2011
Guest Speaker:
Adam White, GroupShot
Group Presentations: UNICEF, MoH, WFP
Group Blogs Due: RC, CRS

Throughout the world, even where significant barriers of access to technology remain, mobile phones are transforming the way people connect to the world. Frontline SMS is an easy-to-use platform that “turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a communication hub.” In this class, students will learn how to set this platform up in addition to learning the benefits of using SMS technology.

Students will:

  • Learn to set up Frontline SMS instance (stand alone)
  • Learn to integrate Frontline SMS with Ushahidi
  • Discuss program considerations of a Frontline SMS Deployment, such as:
    • Deciding when to use Frontline SMS instead of a mapping platform
    • Safety and ethics
    • Integrating Frontline SMS with other appropriate technologies and program goals


Readings (due to copyright laws, some readings are available here)

  • Article: “SMS as a Tool for Election Observation,” Schuler, Ian.  Innovations: Vol 3; Issue 2. MIT Press. (Spring 2008).
  • Report: Meier, Patrick & Coyle, Diane. UN Foundation Vodaphone Report: New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts. (2009)
  • Article: Coyle, Diane and M. B. Childs. The Role of Mobile Phones in Disasters and Emergencies: GSM Association, 2005.
  • Video: Erik Hersman on Reporting Crisis Through Texting, Erik Hersman, 2009


Assignments Due (midnight on 4/8)

  • Teams will be required to create a KML file from the SMS data they received and customize the visualization. The goal is to facilitate information sharing among the other organizations.
  • Teams will explain the benefits/limitations of their map in either a presentation and blog post. Please see the list above for which teams are presenting and which are blogging. Questions to think about:
    • Why is data visualization necessary? And what are other ways the data could have been presented?
    • What was the target audience for this information?
  • For full assignment, see here.