In the aftermath of some of the recent disasters we have witnessed an increasing number of informal actors, largely volunteer based, entering the field of crisis mapping for humanitarian response. The development of ICTs has opened unprecedented space for engagement to a variety of individuals and groups, regardless of their physical location and affiliation to traditional responders. Similarly, with increased access to technology local communities – always the first responders in crisis situations – are not only building and improving their own preparedness and response systems, but are also more effectively engaging in traditional humanitarian preparedness.
These new actors bring with them valuable experience and established networks of trust. They have shown they can organize quickly and effectively, making them very effective at responding to a crisis. But in a crisis, even the most effective response will only be reactive and limited. It is a preparedness that can make a significant impact.
The Standby Task Force (SBTF) organizes digital volunteers into a flexible, trained and prepared network ready to deploy in crises. The concept for the Task Force was launched at the 2010 International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM 2010) to streamline online volunteer support for crisis mapping following lessons learned in Haiti, Chile and Pakistan, and to provide a dedicated interface for the humanitarian community.
Our main objective is to effectively assist crisis affected communities through co-operation with local and international responders. To this effect, we aim to increase the ability and skills of SBTF volunteers through a continuous dialogue and coordination with other tech and crisis mapping volunteer efforts. This will enable SBTF to provide a sustainable and predictable service to first responders. We are also directly engaging colleagues from the traditional humanitarian community in order to develop the SBTF structure and protocols with full understanding of principles of effective and ethical humanitarian response.
Some members of the SBTF are professionals working in the fields of ICT and humanitarian response; many others come from diverse backgrounds and have been trained by the SBTF in the necessary skills to contribute. The SBTF is a volunteer organization; it is a platform, a shared space for those who have skills to offer (or are willing to learn skills) to assist crisis affected communities through the use of technology.