Channel 16

Crowdsourcing continues to gain attention and resources.  Channel 16, a new effort from a coalition of NGOs, aims to be a fully crowdsourced multimedia resource on humanitarian disasters. It will include photos, video, and personal accounts, and serve as a rapid response news source with links to how people can help in a humanitarian emergency. You can see the Pakistan page here.

It’s interesting for a lot of reasons. It’s got a lot of institutional support, and it is aiming for a very reasonable goal. It wants to fill a gap in the mass media – accurate, timely, disaster information. Many complex humanitarian emergencies, like the famine in Niger, have received news coverage based almost entirely on NGO sources and reporting.  (If you don’t believe me, try to find a Niger article that doesn’t quite either Save the Children or Oxfam.)  We might as well skip the middleman and let the NGOs report directly, in a compelling way. Anyone can submit information to Channel 16, via text message, email, twitter, phone call, or an online form. They state that all reports will be verified.  

This is one of the faster, easier uses for crowdsourcing. They’re not trying to use it for disaster response, just disaster reporting. And I like the direct link to what people can do to help. We saw a lot of bad aid in response to the Haiti earthquake. It is good to link people easily to smart aid options.

I wonder, though, how much information they will get. While Channel 16 is in English, French, and Spanish, plenty of emergencies happen in countries that speak other languages. That leaves aid workers and other Western observers providing these crowdsourced reports. Will people have time to provide useful information to Channel 16 in addition to everything else they are doing? I think that the site runs the risk of having nothing but NGO press releases and datasets as its “information” – which would make it a clone of ReliefWeb, which is a great resource that already exists.

We’ll see how it goes. We desperately need a dynamic and useful site that’s rich with constantly updated information on the disasters no one bothers to talk about. It would be fantastic if that is what Channel 16 becomes.