Research: Helping the Helpers – A Toolkit for Mobile Humanitarian Assistance Apps (M. Eng. Thesis)

2016-01-04 - 2 minutes read

This research investigates the following question: ​­ ​How can relief workers be empowered to create useful mobile apps to support the work of first responder teams? Mobile devices are reshaping the disaster management domain and they make fast and targeted support possible. However there is the major obstacle of relief workers and volunteers often lacking the technical abilities to build and deploy the right mobile app in response to a particular disaster. In addition, data interoperability is often missing in many of the applications since they were developed without any prior agreement on the data schema. Linked Data technology solves the data interoperability problem by defining a method of publishing structured data and these structured data can be interlinked and become more useful. In order to explore and provide a solution to the gap between the knowledge of the relief workers and volunteers and the technical abilities needed to create an app, I conducted a participatory design workshop with the people at the International Committee of Red Cross and developed two mobile applications with one of the project managers there. In addition, I have created a Do­It­Yourself (DIY) toolkit that includes: (1) a Mobile Linked Data App Kit: a streamlined process for creating mobile apps and (2) an app­building methodology: a set of principles for relief workers to follow while creating apps using the toolkit. The goal of this toolkit is to enable aid workers to create vital and necessary mobile apps and to empower the humanitarian community. User testing of the framework with first responders has shown that the idea of “using, modifying, and creating” an app is greatly favored by our participants, that mobile Linked Data applications can aid humanitarian organizations by increasing their impact and effectiveness, and that humanitarian workers can successfully develop and deploy mobile applications by using this toolkit.


Author: Weihua Li