WHO IS PATRICK MEIER?
Patrick Meier is the author of the book Digital Humanitarians: How Big Data Is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response. He directs the Social Innovation Program at the Qatar Computing Research Institute where he and his team use human and machine computing to develop “Next Generation Humanitarian Technologies” in partnership with international humanitarian organizations. Patrick has a PhD from The Fletcher School, Pre-Doc from Stanford and an MA from Columbia. He blogs regularly at iRevolutions.
You can connect with Patrick here:
IN TOR 061 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The unique perspective of Patrick, an African-raised technologist with a passion for international development.
- Why international development does not come to mind when thinking about cutting edge research, and what Patrick wants to do about it.
- The importance of having a very powerful reason to conduct high level technological research.
- What the QCRI is and the unique way of doing applied work with big data and other information technologies.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Digital Humanitarian Network
- Digital Humanitarians: How Big Data is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response (book)
- UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
- Red Cross
- World Bank
- Qatar Foundation
- Technological research
- Big data, data solutions
- Computer science
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV, ‘drones’)
- Doha, Qatar
- Silicon Valley
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
“Wannabe” computer scientist
Was giving a conference of big data for development. Head of QCRI reaches him.
QCRI conducts high level research, they want more than theoretical work, interested in social mission within the department.
Currently working on a platform with UNICEF, classify SMS in Tanzania. Unlike FrontlineSMS, their focus is not network but data analysis, keyword search using machine learning.
Every project is a partnership with an organization and seeks to answer a research question, made to take organizations in new places. Organizations “sit on their amounts of data.“
Independent research, trying to grasp what other players do and need.
Development data overwhelm
First, not every place in the world has a lot of data.
The question is still making data solutions accessible and useful. Important in emergency responses in which they add the real time problem.
Humanitarian Network in partnership with OCHA, Usahidi Red Cross, World Bank, private partners.
It is not expected to have global data science experts in development.
Pushing data and technology in development
We fail all the time. “We fail quickly and forward.“
Technology is not ‘ready for prime time’ at the time of launch. Partners in development know what that is like, they tend to be understanding.
But government is not necessarily open to those development approaches.
Everyone needs to understand that all is done in the name of learning.
Why isn’t Patrick in Silicon Valley?
Born and raised in Africa. Grew up in Nairobi, spent youth there.
Interested in computer science, goes to UK. “Something was wrong.“
“What the heck am I doing here? What am I going to bring back, how is this going to have an impact?” Changed to political science and economics.
Turns out computer science was very valuable, it’s the heart of his job.
On the future
“Always go where nobody else is going, even if it is a bit selfish.“
Drones (UAV). Organizations are already deploying it for disaster relief and monitoring, communities themselves are in charge to create and broadcast data, including video.
“The humanitarian system is overstressed.” Data solutions could help making the push forward.
Does Patrick worry about funding?
“We’re in a very luxurious position.” Nobody on his team does any fundraising.
All comes from Qatar Foundation, from the government itself.
QCRI wants to raise his public image through these kinds of initiatives.
Patrick is here because of that, so he can really devote time to applied research.
All the work is open source.
“Do what you’re most excited about.“
“Go forward, being as responsible as you can. You will make mistakes.“
“Find good people, development is not a one man show.“
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or Patrick, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask me directly, head on over to the Ask Stephen section. Don’t be shy! Every question is important and I answer every single one.
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