The Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD) has developed a communication tool called GeoChat for coordinating communications between relief organizations and the local community in real-time. Central to the tool is a map interface to visualize communication in context. The tool fosters interaction that maintains shared geospatial awareness of who is doing what where. Additionally, it works on any device on any platform, with communication enabled through SMS, email, or a web browser.
The GeoChat tool is being used extensively in the field for public outreach efforts and for disaster response. The fact that it can be entirely mobile-based, without the need for a computer, makes it particularly useful in the developing world. Among the organizations using the tool are the Ministry of Health in Cambodia, Inveneo Real Time Ground Support in Haiti, and the Hospital Network in Thailand.
GeoChat is just one of many geo-enabled tools created by InSTEDD to assist with rapid response. Among the other tools are:
- Riff – a data aggregation and visualization tool to monitor multiple sources of information and map, tag and collaborate on the data that is important
- Resource Map – a means to track and share resources in a collaborative environment that is mobile-friendly
- Veegilo – a tool to track and visualize disease indicator numbers on a map and with reports
These free and open source tool suite have been developed over time through extensive fieldwork and collaboration with distributed teams. Anyone is free to take and tailor these tools to their needs or integrate with other existing tools, and to share enhancements back to increase their impact.