Given the recent news reports about chemical weapons in Syria, terrorist attacks, violence against citizens, and warfare waging in many cities around the world, I was struck by the fact that the Financial Times newspaper devoted coveted space on its first page on September 3rd, 2013 to an article about two mobile phone apps currently being used in Lebanon, entitled: The must-have accessory for war—app that keeps you out of danger. The first App is called Ma2too3a. The FT reporter, Abigail Fielding-Smith wrote: “It takes crowd-sourced information from its users about protests, traffic, roadblocks, and clashes and then feeds it into a map.” The developer, Mohammad Taha, developed the app after his wife and children got caught in gunfire driving home from school in Beirut. They were OK, but quite frightened. This app has more than 80,000 downloads.
Another mobile app under development is described by Abigail Fielding-Smith in the same article: “The idea of Firas Wazneh’s ‘Way to Safety,’ is that users can record gunfire and send it to the site, which will identify the weapon from a sound database and triangulate recordings to pinpoint the exact location and type of fighting.”
As I read about these two different, but related, uses of crowdsourcing for mobile phone apps in Beirut, I was struck by how powerful and useful our mobile phones have become as literal life-saving devices, and how awesome it is that crowdsourced information can be quickly harnessed and mobilized to help people help each other. My other reaction: what is our world coming to that this is the way people have to live!