Big data's big role in humanitarian aid

Mission-based organizations, including those helping the recent wave of Syrian refugees, are using big data to improve their response efforts. "Big data can be used to identify patterns and signatures associated with conflict — and those associated with peace — presenting huge opportunities for better-informed efforts to prevent violence and conflict."

Such work is still in the nascent stages, Noel Dickover says, but people are excited about its potential. "We have unprecedented amounts of data on human sentiment, and we know there's value there," he says. "The question is how to connect it."

Dickover is working on ways to do just that. One example is the Open Situation Room Exchange (OSRx) project, which aims to "empower greater collective impact in preventing or mitigating serious violent conflicts in particular arenas through collaboration and data-sharing."

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