Posts tagged SXSW

Ivan Gayton on geeks and primitive fieldworkers: a tale of two cultures

As a project manager for MSF, a medical emergency humanitarian agency, I attended this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, in the company of a friend and collaborator from Google who is involved in crisis mapping. We gave a presentation on some mapping work we had done together, and inevitably we discussed the differences and similarities in our geek (high-technology) and primitive fieldworker (humanitarian) cultures.

At SXSW we had the chance to share that cultural crossover with a broad audience of geeks, fieldworkers, and an assortment of others, all of whom shared an interest in the intersection of humanitarian work and technology. My main take-home message was: we are not alone. We humanitarians tend to take pride in our ability to deal with problems by stretching our ingenuity and using only what is available in the field. My friend from Google was astounded at what we do with spreadsheets, saying “I didn’t think that this could be done without software coding capacity.” We use spreadsheets as databases, stock management systems, maps, payroll systems, and sketchpads.Humanitarians need tools and information, particularly during crises. The tech world is bursting with possibilities to provide just that, often free of charge and with an astonishing level of professionalism. I hope that this meeting of cultures continues to deepen and that the early promise of these innovations translates to real benefit to the populations in crisis that we serve.

Ivan Gayton on geeks and primitive fieldworkers: a tale of two cultures

As a project manager for MSF, a medical emergency humanitarian agency, I attended this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, in the company of a friend and collaborator from Google who is involved in crisis mapping. We gave a presentation on some mapping work we had done together, and inevitably we discussed the differences and similarities in our geek (high-technology) and primitive fieldworker (humanitarian) cultures.

At SXSW we had the chance to share that cultural crossover with a broad audience of geeks, fieldworkers, and an assortment of others, all of whom shared an interest in the intersection of humanitarian work and technology. My main take-home message was: we are not alone. We humanitarians tend to take pride in our ability to deal with problems by stretching our ingenuity and using only what is available in the field. My friend from Google was astounded at what we do with spreadsheets, saying “I didn’t think that this could be done without software coding capacity.” We use spreadsheets as databases, stock management systems, maps, payroll systems, and sketchpads.

Humanitarians need tools and information, particularly during crises. The tech world is bursting with possibilities to provide just that, often free of charge and with an astonishing level of professionalism. I hope that this meeting of cultures continues to deepen and that the early promise of these innovations translates to real benefit to the populations in crisis that we serve.

The Daily Dot: How Doctors Without Borders is mapping the world’s epidemics

Ivan Gayton, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria, speaks on how new technologies have had an “astonishing” effect on his organization’s effectiveness.


“If you’ve got ways to visualize your epidemiology data spatially, it can help you figure out, ‘oh that seems to be along this river,’ or ‘that seems to be consistently in this size of town.’ Those kinds of observations are very hard to make from tables of data, but they’re actually quite easy to make from maps.”

In addition to professional mapping programs like ArcGIS, aid workers have been using Google Earth. Representatives from Google even visited Gayton’s team to help train them on how to use mapping tools. It’s experiences like this that revealed to Gayton the common ground shared by the tech specter and the humanitarian world.

Gayton said these tools will continue to be invaluable as climate change, food crises, and political instability around the globe are poised to shake up longstanding notions about how diseases spread.

But the maps serve another equally important purpose: convincing governments, agencies, and the general public to confront the realities of infectious diseases.

MSF and GOOGLE had a panel discussion at SXSW this weekend in Austin:

SXSW Panel: Adapting New Technologies for Humanitarian Aid
Sunday, March 11, 3:30pm
Austin Convention Center, Room 6ABOriginal article here.

The Daily Dot: How Doctors Without Borders is mapping the world’s epidemics

Ivan Gayton, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria, speaks on how new technologies have had an “astonishing” effect on his organization’s effectiveness.

“If you’ve got ways to visualize your epidemiology data spatially, it can help you figure out, ‘oh that seems to be along this river,’ or ‘that seems to be consistently in this size of town.’ Those kinds of observations are very hard to make from tables of data, but they’re actually quite easy to make from maps.”

In addition to professional mapping programs like ArcGIS, aid workers have been using Google Earth. Representatives from Google even visited Gayton’s team to help train them on how to use mapping tools. It’s experiences like this that revealed to Gayton the common ground shared by the tech specter and the humanitarian world.

Gayton said these tools will continue to be invaluable as climate change, food crises, and political instability around the globe are poised to shake up longstanding notions about how diseases spread.

But the maps serve another equally important purpose: convincing governments, agencies, and the general public to confront the realities of infectious diseases.

MSF and GOOGLE had a panel discussion at SXSW this weekend in Austin:

SXSW Panel: Adapting New Technologies for Humanitarian Aid Sunday, March 11, 3:30pm Austin Convention Center, Room 6AB

Original article here.