Recent disasters, such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake, have drawn attention to the potential role of citizens as active information producers. By using location-aware devices such as smartphones to collect geographic information in the form of geo-tagged text, photos, or videos, and sharing this information through online social media, such as Twitter, citizens create Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). To effectively use this information for disaster management, we developed a VGI framework for the discovery of VGI. This framework consists of four components: (i) a VGI brokering module to provide a standard service interface to retrieve VGI from multiple resources based on spatial, temporal, and semantic parameters; (ii) a VGI quality control component, which employs semantic filtering and cross-referencing techniques to evaluate VGI; (iii) a VGI publisher module, which uses a service-based delivery mechanism to disseminate VGI, and (iv) a VGI discovery component to locate, browse, and query metadata about available VGI datasets. In a case study we employed a FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) strategy, open standards/specifications, and free/open data to show the utility of the framework. We demonstrate that the framework can facilitate data discovery for disaster management. The addition of quality metrics and a single aggregated source of relevant crisis VGI will allow users to make informed policy choices that could save lives, meet basic humanitarian needs earlier, and perhaps limit environmental and economic damage.
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