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Crowd-sourcing – crisis response in the digital age

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In recent weeks Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the tornadoes in the United States and cyclone Cleopatra in Sardinia have served as a stark reminder that natural disasters can strike anywhere, at any time. In addition to the loss of life they cause, they generate heavy economic tolls, such as damage to infrastructure, crops, private property and disruption of business continuity. They inflict further harm on societies through hunger, unemployment, crime, disease, social unrest and environmental damage. According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the costs of natural disasters amounted to over $100 billion per year between 2010 and 2012. Making use of all available resources in crisis and disaster situations is of paramount importance to mitigate humanitarian, social and economic fallout. In this context, information and communication technologies, coupled with crowd-sourcing, are increasingly proving to be valuable tools in tackling some of the key challenges.