Crowdsourcing as a tool during disasters

The start of the internet era opened a lot of opportunities for people all over the world. People contact each other by social media and news sites can make use of these resources to spread the news of happenings in the world. If a disaster happens at the other side of the world, within a short time the whole world knows of this. The way people respond to disasters is changed because of the internet1. People are more willing to donate money, resources, food and clothing to charity organizations which work in these disaster area’s because of the shared online images and messages1. Because it happens by internet, it is a form of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is defined as the act of taking a challenge faced by a firm, organization or individual and […] where the firm, organization or individual broadcasts an open call to other individuals […] to solve this challenge2,3. One example of the use of crowdsourcing during disasters is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor breakdown in Japan. Crowdsourcing platforms started to make maps of the radiation level in Japan and even on the west-coast of the US, where individuals measure these radiation and send them to the platforms4. This gave the citizens of Japan insight in how save it is for them to stay in their home town or if it was better to move to a place with less radiation. Another example is the use of these crowd-sourced maps to give relief workers a clear picture of the current situation, as it was done in Japan after the earthquake5 and after the typhoon in the Philippines in 20131. The map below shows an example how such crowd-sourced map would look like. Last example are the wildfires in Santa Barbara, where geographical information shared on crowdsource platforms gave information about the development of the wildfire to firemen6.  In these types of situations, crowdsourcing can be defined as “The process of gathering work or funding via the internet to benefit a particular person, organization, or event1.

The use of crowdsourcing is a new trend in disaster management and a lot of research is done in this area at the moment6. The examples above shows that it can be very helpful in some circumstances, where the use of citizens is important for having a clear view of the disaster. Although the question is if this is the case for many other threatened or disaster situations. If these citizen have no excess to the digital world, it is more difficult to use crowdsourcing as a tool in disaster management6. This research and newspaper articles show that crowdsourcing can have a much broader use than companies and organizations thought in the beginning of the internet era.



Thomas (400487)


  1. Innocentive (November 25, 2013). The impact of Crowdsourcing on typhoon Haiyan response. Consulted on: April 26, 2014.
  2. Majchrzak, A. and Malhotra, A. (2013). Towards an information systems perspective and research agenda on crowdsourcing for innovation. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, vol. 22, pp. 257 – 268.
  3. Arolas, E.E. and Guevara, F.G.L. (2012). Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition. Journal of Information Science, vol. 38 (2), pp. 189 – 200.
  4. Rosenberg, T. (March 28, 2011). Crowdsourcing a Better World. The New York Times. Consulted on: April 26, 2014.
  5. Lohr, S. (March 28, 2011). Online Mapping Shows Potential to Transform Relief Effort. The New York Times. Consulted on: April 26, 2014.
  6. Goodchild, M.F. and Glennon, J.A. (2010). Crowdsourcing geographic information for disaster response: a research frontier. International Journal of Digital Earth, vol. 3 (3), pp. 231 – 241.

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