Chapter 16. Battling Ebola in Sierra Leone

Data Sharing to Improve Crisis Response

Summary: In 2014, the largest Ebola outbreak in history occurred in West Africa. Information on Ebola cases and response efforts was dispersed across a diversity of data collectors, and there was little ability to get relevant data into the hands of those who could leverage it. A number of data-driven initiatives sought to improve the quality of information available to humanitarians working to address the crisis. This case study examines three initiatives in particular—Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), the United Nation’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) and the Ebola GeoNode—and shows both the potential and challenges of open data projects in combating Ebola specifically, and more generally in addressing humanitarian crises.

Dimension of Impact: Solving Public Problems—Data-Driven Engagement

Key Takeaways:

  • Data and information have important roles to play in the battle not just against Ebola, but more generally against a variety of natural and man-made crises.

  • However, in order to maximize that potential, it is essential to foster the supply side of open data initiatives—i.e., to ensure the availability of sufficient, high-quality information. This can be especially challenging when there is no clear policy backing to push actors into compliance and to set clear standards for data quality and format.

  • Particularly during a crisis, the early ...

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