Crowdsourcing solutions to the migrant crisis – How you can help

05/26/2017 10:25 am ET

While Syria grabs the headlines, migrants and refugees are in danger all around the world. Each year, thousands of migrants go missing or die on their way to making new lives for themselves and their families. The International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project estimates more than 46,000 migrants have perished since 2000. Nearly 8000 died or went missing in 2016 alone.

Humanitarian organizations house massive stores of data, but may not have the resources to analyze it proactively to address global crises. Fortunately, the world is full of volunteer and professional data explorers who want to help solve complex global challenges, but don’t know where to start. A new crowdsourcing project presents an answer.

GatherIQ puts analytics in the public’s hands to address world problems. One of the first projects the mobile app will address involves global migration using data from the Missing Migrants Project.

Buzzwords like Big Data, machine learning and cognitive computing are everywhere these days.

The IOM project is not that. These are not big data and users aren’t deploying the latest machine learning algorithms. This isn't a massive data integration or statistical modeling challenge. There is no textbook technique for data like these.

These are very complex data -- witness reports collected from government agencies, news feeds, aid relief groups, and other reporters. Some records are highly detailed with links to trusted sources and other records are so sparse that there is barely enough description to know what might have happened.

But these data concern the survival of real human beings, real people in the real world. So, you cannot just scrub a record or drop a line of data because most of the variables are missing. Even reports that may be sparse, unclear, or even confusing must be considered carefully.

For data like these, there is only one approach that works. You gather as many smart people as possible to take a close, careful look at the data. And that's what GatherIQ does.

IOM tapping into a community of concerned, data-savvy citizens

“The migrant crisis continues unabated. By better understanding the risks facing these people, we can do more to protect them.” said Leonard Doyle, IOM spokesperson. “The more people we have analyzing the data and contributing to solutions, the more likely we are to save lives.”

Created by SAS, the analytics company, GatherIQ provides a gathering place where smart, thoughtful volunteer and professional data scientists can review the data that are available and talk about the data together. They can post questions and insights, which are relayed to IOM.

It’s not just an exercise in data exploration. IOM will provide feedback and share information on how the GatherIQ community has helped them in their mission.

The GatherIQ community facilitates a real-time discussion about how to handle sparse records, how to interpret reports that seem similar or may show a trend, and what can be done to improve the analysis and reporting of the data.

Community members can work together as a team from anywhere in the world. GatherIQ is available as a mobile app for iPhone or iPad, with Android and web options coming soon. The integrated platform gives users access to both the data and the discussion, making it easy to post insights, answer questions, and discuss the data.

GatherIQ is a place for thoughtful, concerned, data-savvy citizens to lend their intelligence, expertise, skills, and ingenuity to improve our understanding of complex data too important to ignore.

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