9 June 2016

SOS Children's Villages and Erste Group partner on crowd-sourced app for refugee crisis emergency response

With the Toucan platform, organisations can configure which issues and emergencies they want to be informed about, specifying parameters such as the radius. Photographer: BeeTwo

A new crowd-sourced emergency response platform, developed in response to the European refugee crisis, will enable refugees, NGOs and volunteers to share up-to-date and local information to respond to human needs.

Toucan, the online emergency response platform developed in response to the European refugee crisis by BeeTwo, which was set up by the innovation hub of Erste Group, together with SOS Children’s Villages International, is now being tested along the refugee route in the Balkans.
 
The new platform enables refugees to share real-time information, such as where there is a need for urgent medical assistance, and also enables NGOs on the ground to share information about the resources they have available, and to coordinate quickly where these resources should be sent to respond to urgent needs.
 
The platform was developed based on input from NGOs working on the ground in the Balkan refugee route as well as feedback from Andreas Papp, International Director of Emergency Response at SOS Children’s Villages International.
 
Mr Papp said, ‘Technology such as online resources has opened up new ways of sharing information and resources with the stakeholders on the ground. The context of the refugee crisis is fast evolving and I’m excited to see how, together with BeeTwo, we can harness this to improve the coordination, reactivity and quality of services of NGOs working in the field.’
 
The European refugee crisis has seen NGOs working in different fields and different countries come together to support the many individuals affected by the crisis. However, a challenge has been to access up-to-date information on the ground, particularly when the situation changes regularly. This is where Toucan comes in.
 
The platform is currently aimed at refugees and NGOs working on the ground in the refugee crisis; however it is anticipated that in the future Eden will also be available to individuals wishing to volunteer their services, such as doctors.
 
A user can create an issue, which is coded according to type of issue, such as a medical issue. For example, if a pregnant woman refugee is going into labour and is about to give birth, and there are three medical organisations in the area, the platform allows the organisations to coordinate who will respond. This avoids situations where more than one organisation goes to the same incident, wasting valuable resources.
 
The Toucan platform helps aid organisations coordinate their response to specific emergency issues. Photo: BeeTwo
 
The platform also includes a real-time map and users can adapt their settings so they only see issues relevant to them, such as a medical organisation based in a city choosing to only see medical issues in their city.
 
The beta version is currently being tested by SOS Children’s Villages and other NGOs working on the Balkan route to support refugees on the ground.
 
In a recent workshop organised by the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), Mr Papp and Annunziata Schmidt-Chiari, representing BeeTwo, presented Toucan as a case study for how technology can support emergency response.
 
Ms Schmidt-Chiari said, ‘With their experience in emergency response and enthusiasm for exploring how new technology can support their work, SOS Children’s Villages International is an obvious partner for this project, so it is exciting to work together on the platform.’
 
While the platform was specifically designed to be used in the European refugee crisis, it can also be used in other emergency situations. Mr Papp added, ‘Toucan is a great opportunity for NGOs working in all areas of emergency response. This project shows what can be achieved with technology and cooperation.’

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