Over the past two years, dozens of organizations used Facebook's Data for Good products to improve wellbeing and save lives. Their most profound applications include disaster preparedness projects, vaccination campaigns, and effective deployment of services during times of natural disaster.
Humanitarian Needs: Food, Water..and data?
The three simple words, “I am alive,” can bring peace of mind after disasters. But after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Ricans had very little opportunity to impart that crucial message to family members outside of their own neighborhoods. Connectivity isn’t often spoken about as a humanitarian imperative, but to people worried about the fate of their loved ones, it’s as essential as food and water.
Direct Relief Responds as Wildfires Burn In Northern California
This map details evacuation patterns as a result of the Carr Fire near Redding, California, on Monday, July 30, 2018. The lighter gray squares show areas of lower population, while the darker pink squares show areas of higher population, revealing where people have evacuated, away from the fire, which is outlined in red. The Shasta Community Health Center, a Direct Relief partner facility, is also shown here. This data was derived from Facebook's Disaster Maps tool, which shares aggregated insights from the Facebook platform with NGOs working in disaster response.
Unlocking Insights from Data: Collabnoration with Private Sector Creates Cutting-Edge Maps for Disaster Response
Following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Facebook contacted NetHope’s Crisis Informatics team to offer data to better inform the response strategy. The information, collected by Facebook of those using the service in Puerto Rico with their Location Services turned on, provided an aggregated, anonymized view of usage prior to the storm*. These data could be used to show drops in connectivity on a daily basis by comparing the aggregate normal number of users connecting to Facebook in a given area and the number able to connect in the days after the hurricane.
NetHope deploys connectivity team in aftermath of Indonesian earthquake
Facebook’s Disaster Maps data showed a loss of connectivity in the tsunami inundation area following the 2018 Indonesian earthquake.
Shedding light on displacement trends in disaster through technology?
In 2018, the state of Kerala suffered its worst floods in a century. Unusually heavy rainfall, coupled with poorly managed distribution systems, created a havoc like flood situation pushing over a million people out of their homes into relief camps. As SEEDS, a humanitarian agency that works on relief, recovery, rehabilitation- our Kerala operations were better calibrated with unique information available from Facebook maps. Under a special arrangement, SEEDS was able to access near real-time information of movement of populations in the affected locations in the State.
“Data for Good” and the New Humanitarian Future
With access to such maps, which Facebook provides for free to organizations like Direct Relief that sign data-sharing agreements, questions about where and when to maximize things like N-95 mask distribution could start to be answered in new ways. Evacuation patterns could be analyzed to understand the degree to which people were evacuating their neighborhoods or staying behind. The ebb and flow of population density around planned distribution sites or health centers could be tracked throughout the day.