Technology boosts the participation of citizens in global challenges
18 September 2013, Geneva, Switzerland - Speaking in Geneva at the 2013 Open Knowledge Conference, the world’s leading annual event on open data, the CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation, Rufus Pollock, announced that barely six months after its official launch, the open-source platform Crowdcrafting.org has grown to accommodate over 120 projects, making it the world’s most diverse open-source platform for online citizen science and crowdsourced data analysis.
Crowdcrafting is a collaboration between the partners of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, among which UNITAR/UNOSAT, and the Open Knowledge Foundation. Because of the broad, enabling power of this platform, the Shuttleworth Foundation awarded in September this year one of its prestigious fellowships to the lead developer of Crowdcrafting, Daniel Lombraña González, who has been working along with UNOSAT experts and University of Geneva researchers in the Citizen Cyberscience Centre.
Crowdcrafting is not only a success in itself: it has the capacity to motorize concrete activities that are successful themselves. For example, the project ForestWatchers for citizen-based monitoring of deforestation, which is also built on Crowdcrafting’s technology, has received support from the Open Society Foundations for a second phase in which local community knowledge from citizens will be integrated into the maps produced by on-line participants.
Meanwhile the web-supported platform continues to evolve, with the inclusion of other open-source tools thanks to support received from the Sloan Foundation. These improvements enlarge the IT ecosystem that Crowdcrafting can support but also extend the scope of Crowdcrafting beyond volunteer thinking projects to include volunteer sensing with mobile phones, and volunteer computing using virtual machines. Experts think that this type of integrated platforms on line, linked up with fast growing open databases will soon change the way we shape thinking and action on globalized issues.
Keynote speaker at Open Knowledge Conference and world-renowned theoretical physicist, John Ellis of King’s College London and CERN commented “I was amazed how students at the CERN Webfest in August could turn CERN data on antimatter into a new citizen science project within just a weekend. This shows the power of the Crowdcrafting platform.”
Also speaking at Open Knowledge Conference, Francesco Pisano of UNITAR remarked “Crowdcrafting is more than just a tool for basic science. Our UNOSAT programme is adapting the technology to efficiently combine the strength of volunteer computing with the work the UN and many NGOs have to do in generating information and assessments after natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.”
Denis Hochstrasser, vice-rector for research at the University of Geneva added “I’m proud that the Crowdcrafting platform is based here at University of Geneva. And I’m personally convinced that this grass-roots approach to citizen science will have a large impact on biomedical research, a core competence of our University. This is an area where increasingly, communities of patients are pro-actively collecting and analyzing their own medical data.”
Images: Top: screenshot of Crowdcrafting application for measuring particle tracks in data captured by the AEGIS project, which is exploring the effect of gravity on antimatter. This type of classification is difficult with automated techniques, but with Crowdcrafting.org nearly 3000 events were classified by online volunteers in 24h, after CERN tweeted about the project.
Centre: Daniel Lombraña González of CCC presents the ForesWatchers application.
Click on the ForestWatchers logo to watch a video on the application and how it works.