REUNITE investigates how technology can help aid organisations reunite those separated by war and natural disaster.
In crisis, such as Boxing Day tsunami, communication channels are destroyed and families and friends are separated. Many flee to relief camps, where there may be more than a million people. In camps of this size, it’s almost impossible to find loved ones. So, aid organisations provide services to help people find those they’ve lost.
In a typical scenario, aid workers interview those who are looking for loved ones and asking for their personal details, the details of those they’ve lost and how they were separated. In a laborious process, this information is recorded onto paper. By manually searching these paper records, aid workers identify those who are looking for each other.
Aid workers try to reunite people as fast as possible. However, there may be few aid workers with the language skills required to conduct interviews and paper records are difficult to search and may contain errors.
Finding an alternative to this time-consuming process is the aim of REUNITE. We present a proof of concept that addresses the issues mentioned by replacing paper records with smartphones, increasing the workforce available using a concept called crowdsourcing and ensuring reliability with statically machine learning techniques.
- In a disaster area, a relief worker meets a person who is looking for their family. The relief worker uses their smartphone to record an interview with the person. An interview contains an audio recording, a photograph and the location where the interview was recorded. Within the audio recording, the person describes themselves, their family and how they became separated.
- When the relief worker has Internet access, they upload the interview from the smartphone to the Web. A crowd of people from across the global extract the information from the interview and enter it into a form. This form is known as a transcription.
- The transcriptions are merged using statistical techniques to produce a profile of the person.
- The crowd use the information in the person’s profile to search other profiles for the person’s family and suggest matches.
- Once enough crowd members have suggested the same match, REUNITE notifies relief workers near the matched individuals.
- Relief workers ask the matched individuals to confirm that they know each other. Once both individuals have confirmed, relief workers can share the location of the individuals.