Selleo have so far designed and developed a few web and/or mobile applications for NGOs and nonprofit organizations, which facilitate the organizations in their mission to effectively deliver humanitarian aid or advance social development in affected areas. This time, however, we contributed to the cause somewhat differently.
Andreas Papp – the Delegate & Program Director of MSF-Austria – invited us to take part in a technology seminar in Prague (“The use of new technologies in humanitarian practice”) as well as the New Technologies Panel at the Humanitarian Congress in Olomouc.
In both locations we aimed to share our knowledge and experience concerning the impact of mobile technologies on the way charities and aid agencies conduct their humanitarian and development operations. The other panelists, who came from the major universities in Austria, focused on the applications of satellite technologies and UAVs / UASs. All the presentations delivered contained some very practical, down-to-earth examples of the use of the new technologies in the field. Finally, we also talked about the potential benefits of using Open Source solutions and technology professionals voluntary engagement as resources with which to favour the causes pursued by NGOs and agencies delivering humanitarian and development aid.
Stefan Lang – a GIS and Remote Sensing expert and an Assistant Professor at the Interfaculty Department of Geoinformatics (Z_GIS) at the University of Salzburg in Austria, who heads the Z_GIS Division Integrated Spatial Analysis (ISA), discussed GIS and remote sensing technologies and demonstrated how the technologies are used in practice for disaster mapping, tracking displaced population movements and groundwater availability monitoring.
Markus Enenkel – a Remote Sensing researcher and a project manager from the Vienna University of Technology / the Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation (GEO), focused on Earth Observation technologies and in particular, on how the EO techniques and data can be used for water and drought monitoring and forecasting.
Arkadiusz Kwaśny – a co-founder and the CEO of Selleo (a web and mobile software development house), talked about the added value of mobile devices and software tools which can be used to execute humanitarian / development operations with greater efficiency. Arek presented specific mobile applications which Selleo have built with and/or for NGOs, i.e. ViewWorld – a data collection and management platform and Global Emergency Overview – a data gathering and crises information sharing platform.
Hansjörg Ragg – an engineer and a photogrammetry and remote sensing expert from the University of Innsbruck, is responsible for UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) projects at the Institute of Geography and focuses on alpine hazards monitoring. Hansjörg, with his deep understanding of the different types of UAS and their applicability shared some invaluable insights on how UAVs (commonly known as drones) can potentially be deployed in humanitarian aid operations. He has also analysed the obstacles which hinder a more widespread application of UAVs in field operations.
Grzegorz Rduch – Selleo’s COO and the Chairman of the Advisory Board at Mikstura.IT Foundation, talked about open source community engagement for NGOs. He described several open source projects and initiatives geared specifically towards non-profits. Greg encouraged the humanitarian officers present to market their causes not only to donors but also to open source contributors who can commit their time and skills on projects to support humanitarian organizations and agencies. On the other hand, he pointed out that students – many of whom attended the event – do not need to wait to be deployed in the field in order to be able to deliver tangible help; they may just as well start contributing their talents while still at school / university.
All in all, during both the seminar in Prague and the expert panel in Olomouc it was clear that the last decade had brought numerous technical possibilities associated with GIS, satellite remote sensing, UAVs, mobile phone applications, etc. Although a lot of this knowledge is readily available at academic institutions and commercial companies, the question still remains how the technologies are best to be applied in humanitarian field operations, where they can make a real difference.