This blog concentrates on usability issues for Geographic Information Science (GIS) in the humanitarian response to Sudden Onset Disasters (SODs).

The ungrammatical title, ‘Usability for GIS in Sudden Onset Disasters’, is an attempt to summarise this somewhat ungainly subject title into something short and memorable.  This is appropriate since the content of this blog will be doing much the same thing with the subject matter.

There has been an explosion of interest in geospatial technologies and their potential role in humanitarian response to SODs.  However there is often a lack of attention paid to the novice end-users of GI services and products.  Many first responders to a natural disaster have limited background knowledge of any form of information technology.  Moreover many humanitarian professionals remain sceptical of the value and untrained in the potential of GIS.

In this blog I will be surveying some of the many and varied GIS products and services available to the humanitarian community.  Although I have the training to understand their potential, I will not be raving about how the latest geometrical rectification algorithms can help with disaster monitoring.  Rather, I will be asking how novice end-users, in other words individuals with no prior GIS training from the humanitarian community, can use the resulting tools and services.  I will be pointing out obstacles and making suggestions for improvement where necessary.

The blog follows on from research I conducted at the University of Southampton.  You can find the thesis in the Research section with discussion pages on the various sections forthcoming.  Since the research was completed, a joint paper by Muki Haklay, Richard Treves and Pavel Sharma on the topic has been submitted to the Journal of Applied Ergonomics.  I will make this available if and when it is published.

Please do leave comments and ask questions.  The purpose of the blog is to increase awareness of usability issues so that obvious problems can be solved, eventually increasing the resilience of communities to sudden-onset disasters.


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