Three New Open Source Tools Aimed at Global Humanitarian Efforts

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 18, 2009

Today, a Silicon Valley non-profit group called InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters) unveiled three new open source software tools targeted to help global humanitarian efforts. The group works with humanitarian organizations, local communities, and government ministries to improve disease detection and disaster response. Some of the tools are already in use in HIV clinics in Tanzania, centers for disease control in Kenya and Cambodia, and more. Here are the details on the tools, and how to get them.

According to InSTEDD:

InSTEDD GeoChat is a group communications system that lets teams coordinate around events as they unfold, linking mobile teams in the field, decision makers at headquarters, and the affected local community in a unified effective response. The systems allows both online users and mobile telephone users to share information, report from the field, broadcast alerts, post their locations, and chat with each other on the surface of a map, all using SMS text messages.

InSTEDD Mesh4X is an integration platform that lets teams share critical information reliably, selectively, and securely, with anyone, over any network, using any device. Internet connectivity is not a constant requirement since Mesh4x can collect and distribute updates between users over several methods, including cellular SMS text messages and the Internet.

InSTEDD Evolve is a tool that allows a team of experts to interact around information streams in order to detect emerging threats, work together to define what is happening, and make informed decisions together. A team using Evolve can use its set of integrated services for analysis, collaboration, and visualization of information, helping a group of experts make better decisions with assistance from both software-based analysis and from tools designed to help human collaboration. Evolve offers extensive and continuous machine-based monitoring and assessment continuously, in the background, enhancing the capabilities of humans trying to detect worrisome problems early.

Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, says that InSTEDD's work is "impressive," and "important." "Open-source, mobile, social software can enable unprecedented levels of collaboration among humanitarian groups, helping them save lives in disasters and global pandemics," he adds.

We've covered another open source effort to provide early detection of diseases: TriSano, which functions as an infectious disease reporting system in Utah. As we noted in our story on TriSano, it's still very common for reporting on the spread of diseases to take place through faxes and other sub-optimal vehicles. Especially in poverty-stricken parts of the world where multiple diseases regularly make the rounds, it looks like there is lots of room for open source technology solutions. You can find many other open source tools targeted at healthcare, in OStatic's software database, by searching on "healthcare."