Information Retrieval

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 210–266 | Cite as

Crowdsourcing and the crisis-affected community

Lessons learned and looking forward from Mission 4636
  • Robert MunroEmail author
Crowd Sourcing


This article reports on Mission 4636, a real-time humanitarian crowdsourcing initiative that processed 80,000 text messages (SMS) sent from within Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. It was the first time that crowdsourcing (microtasking) had been used for international relief efforts, and is the largest deployment of its kind to date. This article presents the first full report and analysis of the initiative looking at the accuracy and timeliness in creating structured data from the messages and the collaborative nature of the process. Contrary to all previous papers, studies and media reports about Mission 4636, which have typically chosen to exclude empirical analyses and the involvement of the Haitian population, it is found that the greatest volume, speed and accuracy in information processing was by Haitian nationals, the Haitian diaspora, and those working closest with them, and that no new technologies played a significant role. It is concluded that international humanitarian organizations have been wrongly credited for large-scale information processing initiatives (here and elsewhere) and that for the most part they were largely just witnesses to crisis-affected communities bootstrapping their own recovery through communications technologies. The particular focus is on the role of the diaspora, an important population that are increasingly able to contribute to response efforts thanks to their increased communication potential. It is recommended that future humanitarian deployments of crowdsourcing focus on information processing within the populations they serve, engaging those with crucial local knowledge wherever they happen to be in the world.


Crowdsourcing Microtasking Haiti SMS 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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