Enterprise Linux Log

Jan 4 2011   6:00PM GMT

Grant allows open source crisis response work to flourish

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

The Oregon State University Open Source Lab (OSU OSL) announced that its partnership with CrisisCommons, a grassroots network of volunteers that aids regions in crisis through computer technology, was further bolstered by a $1.2 million grant. The funding will allow the two organizations to expand open source into areas affected by natural disasters.

The grant was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which manages the CrisisCommons project. The grant will aid OSU OSL “open source” crisis efforts including hosting core CrisisCommons training resources and using open source to build a model for efficient crisis and disaster response.

CrisisCommons is a young organization – it formed after the devastating January 2010 Haiti earthquake and partnered with the OSU OSL after it needed help with its infrastructure. The organization has also aided in the Chile earthquake relief efforts, floods in Tennessee and Pakistan, and has built numerous applications using open source technology for relief efforts, including a “Person Finder” and “Tradui,” a Creole translation app.

According to Leslie Hawthorn, Open Source Outreach Manager with the OSL, the partnership on more projects like these was a no-brainer.

“Our mission is to help open source projects, and it’s even better when we can help open source projects with a mission focused on humanitarian aid and the public good,” said Hawthorn.

But why is open source playing such an important role in crisis efforts? For one, the minimal cost of open source software is huge for countries with fewer economic resources, according to Hawthorn. There are more practical, important reasons, though.

“Open source systems allow for rapid, real-time innovation by volunteers,” said Hawthorn. “CrisisCommons’ Crisis Camps are excellent examples of how hundreds of individuals can come together and contribute their skills as developers to alleviate suffering, all of which is made possible because the source code they are improving is open source.”

To learn more about the OSL, CrisisCommons and this grant, check out CrisisCommons’ announcement about the partnership.

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