Information Technology

Information Visibility in Humanitarian Operations: Current State-of-the-Art

Information Visibility in Humanitarian Operations: Current State-of-the-Art
In N. Atlay, M. Haselkorn, and C. Zobel (Eds.), Advances in Managing Humanitarian Operations. New York: Springer.

Privett, N.
04/18/2015

Purpose – Humanitarian operations can be greatly improved through increased supply chain visibility, that is, availability of information throughout the supply chain. This is broadly true for all types of humanitarian operations, whether disaster relief, global health efforts, or capacity building, or community development., and it is especially true for operations in developing or compromised country contexts.  This chapter establishes basic supply chain visibility needs in humanitarian contexts and explores current state-of-the-art technologies and applications employed to gain and improve visibility in humanitarian operations.  Conclusions are drawn regarding gaps in current visibility mechanisms as well as promising areas for further research and development.

                                                                       

Approach – Information regarding visibility needs, technologies, and projects was collected through 22 semi-structured interviews and a review of current literature from a variety of sources.  The state-of-the-art of visibility technology and applications are described by reviewing technologies, applications, and pilot projects in the humanitarian sector.  Conclusions are drawn comparing these technologies and addressing their weaknesses as well as remaining gaps in currently available solutions.

 

Findings – There is consensus among humanitarian researchers and practitioners that increased visibility has the potential to greatly improve humanitarian operations.  Firstly, though, any visibility mechanism must first be robust to potential humanitarian contextual challenges, including weak infrastructure (e.g., roads, electricity, internet and mobile networks), remoteness of operations, lack of human resources, and environmental conditions.  Identified visibility needs for humanitarian operations include tracking of location, tracking of inventory levels, temperature monitoring, tracing product information, information sharing, and decision making support.

This chapter demonstrates that current state-of-the-art technologies and applications aimed at increasing visibility in humanitarian operations are varied in approach and complexity; while  each tackle different needs, no one solution satisfies all. Reviewed technologies and applications are organized into the following categories: nontechnology-based applications, mature technologies, mobile phone applications and technologies, satellite-based technologies, temperature sensor and monitor technologies, and software technologies.  Indeed, each mechanism investigated (state-of-the-art technologies and applications) does improve visibility to some degree, but more complete visibility must be achieved through disconnected, patchwork solutions.  Thus, multifaceted and disjoined efforts must be employed to achieve even low levels of visibility today.

Over all of these technologies and applications, a set of key weaknesses has been identified.  While great advances and success has been achieved, unfeasible infrastructure dependency continues to be a weakness of existing technologies and applications. Such dependency includes reliance on electricity, computers, internet connectivity, cellular networks, and existing systems (e.g., RFID reader network). It is observed in this research, that as a solution moves away from being infrastructure dependent, it becomes more dependent on human resources.  As such, many of these solutions are labor intensive, dependent on reporting, and require extensive training.  However, human resources constraints and dependency themselves are serious issues facing humanitarian operations.  Furthermore, data collection is clearly limited and existing methods continue to be plagued by inaccuracy, deficient error checking provisions, and lack of back-up. Some data is still not real-time and delayed notification does not enable prevention. Affordability is another key weakness in the form of the devices, systems, and/or usage. 

Most importantly, for information visibility to be beneficial, (1) the information must be actionable and (2) the gained information and operational reaction systems must be synchronized for action, i.e., operations must be prepared and capable to respond to the information.  Thus, the greatest limitations are the lack of systems, procedures, and training that enable meaningful and appropriate reaction to the information provided. 

Contribution – This research assembles and evaluates current needs and efforts in humanitarian operations and supply chain visibility. Overall, this chapter informs current research and practice of ideal, necessary and realistically obtainable information in today’s humanitarian operations.  The benefits of this work extend broadly to operations and supply chain researchers and practitioners, including those engaged in humanitarian relief, global health supply chains, capacity building, and ongoing development campaigns.  Furthermore, the identification of gaps in current state-of-the-art technologies and applications directs future efforts of developers and users.

Twitter Response to the United States Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations against Screening with Prostate Specific Antigen

Twitter Response to the United States Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations against Screening with Prostate Specific Antigen
BJU International. DOI: 10.1111/bju.12748

Prabhu, V., T. Lee, S. Loeb, J.H. Holmes, H.T. Gold, H. Lepor, D.F. Penson, and D.V. Makarov
03/24/2014

Objective: To examine public and media response to the United States Preventive Services Task Force's (USPSTF) draft (October 2011) and finalized (May 2012) recommendations against prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing using Twitter, a popular social network with over 200 million active users.

Materials and Methods: We used a mixed methods design to analyze posts on Twitter, called “tweets.” Using the search term “prostate cancer,” we archived tweets in the 24 hour periods following the release of the USPSTF draft and finalized recommendations. We recorded tweet rate per hour and developed a coding system to assess type of user and sentiment expressed in tweets and linked articles.

Results: After the draft and finalized recommendations, 2042 and 5357 tweets focused on the USPSTF report, respectively. Tweet rate nearly doubled within two hours of both announcements. Fewer than 10% of tweets expressed an opinion about screening, and the majority of these were pro-screening during both periods. In contrast, anti-screening articles were tweeted more frequently in both draft and finalized study periods. From the draft to the finalized recommendations, the proportion of anti-screening tweets and anti-screening article links increased (p= 0.03 and p<0.01, respectively).

Conclusions: There was increased Twitter activity surrounding the USPSTF draft and finalized recommendations. The percentage of anti-screening tweets and articles appeared to increase, perhaps due to the interval public comment period. Despite this, most tweets did not express an opinion, suggesting a missed opportunity in this important arena for advocacy.

Corporations and Transparency: Improving Consumer Markets and Increasing Public Accountability

Corporations and Transparency: Improving Consumer Markets and Increasing Public Accountability
In "Transparency in Politics and the Media: Accountability and Open Government," Nigel Bowles, James T. Hamilton, David A. Lev, eds. I.B. Tauris/Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Gurin, Joel and Beth Noveck
12/09/2013

From cuneiform to card catalogs, people have always recorded data. But now we have tools to collect information faster than ever before. The proliferation of data includes statistics collected by governments about the economy, such as unemployment data or data that we supply on our tax returns and patent filings. When the media refer to the era of “Big Data,” they are including the vast amounts of information we also passively generate.  Our mobile phones and cars contain sensors to track and report our location, position, acceleration, and temperature.  The smart meters in our homes reveal when we turn on the heat or hot water. Companies increasingly gather data about our shopping and web browsing habits. The world’s storehouse of digital information is growing at the rate of five trillion bits per second.   

What is revolutionary is not only the quantity of data but also how we can use computers to search, sort, compare, aggregate, visualize, and track data. This kind of analysis can help us understand more about ourselves, our communities, and our environment, realizing the benefits of what has been called the quantified self  and community.  But these benefits can only be realized if data are available in a form that computers can ingest and process.  Data must be open –freely accessible and computable. When data are open, anyone can create sophisticated visualizations, models and analyses as well as spot mistakes or mix and mash across datasets to yield new insights.

Prostate Cancer Imaging Trends After a Nationwide Effort to Discourage Inappropriate Prostate Cancer Imaging

Prostate Cancer Imaging Trends After a Nationwide Effort to Discourage Inappropriate Prostate Cancer Imaging
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 105, no. 17, pp. 1306-1313. DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djt175

Makarov, D.V., S. Loeb, D. Ulmert, L. Drevin, M. Lambe, and P. Stattin
07/13/2013

Background: Reducing inappropriate use of imaging to stage incident prostate cancer is a challenging problem highlighted recently as a Physician Quality Reporting System quality measure and by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Urological Association in the Choosing Wisely campaign. Since 2000, the National Prostate Cancer Register (NPCR) of Sweden has led an effort to decrease national rates of inappropriate prostate cancer imaging by disseminating utilization data along with the latest imaging guidelines to urologists in Sweden. We sought to determine the temporal and regional effects of this effort on prostate cancer imaging rates.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study among men diagnosed with prostate cancer from the NPCR from 1998 to 2009 (n = 99 879). We analyzed imaging use over time stratified by clinical risk category (low, intermediate, high) and geographic region. Generalized linear models with a logit link were used to test for time trend.

Results: Thirty-six percent of men underwent imaging within 6 months of prostate cancer diagnosis. Overall, imaging use decreased over time, particularly in the low-risk category, among whom the imaging rate decreased from 45% to 3% (P < .001), but also in the high-risk category, among whom the rate decreased from 63% to 47% (P < .001). Despite substantial regional variation, all regions experienced clinically and statistically (P < .001) significant decreases in prostate cancer imaging.

Conclusions: A Swedish effort to provide data on prostate cancer imaging use and imaging guidelines to clinicians was associated with a reduction in inappropriate imaging over a 10-year period, as well as slightly decreased appropriate imaging in high-risk patients. These results may inform current efforts to promote guideline-concordant imaging in the United States and internationally.

Getting Started with Open Data, A Guide for Transportation Agencies

Getting Started with Open Data, A Guide for Transportation Agencies
May, 2012

Kaufman, Sarah M.
05/01/2012

Getting Started with Open Data is a guide for transportation agencies that would like to release their schedule data and administrative records to the public, and need an introduction to the practice. This guide is intended to result in streamlined use of transportation services and promote a productive dialogue between agencies and their constituents. It is being released as a living document, intended for input from both transportation data owners and users, to result in the most complete open transportation data guide possible.

Peer to Patent: Collective Intelligence and Intellectual Property Reform

Peer to Patent: Collective Intelligence and Intellectual Property Reform
20 Harv. J. L. Tech. 123 

Noveck, Beth
01/01/2006

The patent system is broken. The Constitution intended for patents to foster innovation and the promotion of progress in the useful arts. Instead, the Patent Office creates uncertainty and monopoly. Underpaid and overwhelmed examiners struggle under the burden of 350,000 applications per year and a mounting backlog of 600,000. Increasingly patents are approved for unmerited inventions. What if we could make it easier to ensure that only the most worthwhile inventions got twenty years of monopoly rights? What if we could offer a
way to protect the inventor’s investment while still safeguarding the marketplace of ideas from bad inventions? What if we could make informed decisions about scientifically complex
problems before the fact, rather than trying to reform the system ex post? What if we could harness collective intelligence to replace bureaucracy?
This Article argues that we should reform the patent system by re-designing the institution of patent examination. Our existing legal mechanisms for awarding the patent monopoly are
constructed around the outdated assumption that only expert bureaucrats can produce dispassionate decisions in the public interest. Building upon what we have learned from online and off-line systems of collaboration, we can now use the tools available to combine the
wisdom of expert scientific communities of practice with the legal determinations of a trained Patent Office staff.

The patent system is broken. The Constitution intended for patents to foster innovation and
the promotion of progress in the useful arts. Instead, the Patent Office creates uncertainty
and monopoly. Underpaid and overwhelmed examiners struggle under the burden of
350,000 applications per year and a mounting backlog of 600,000. Increasingly patents are
approved for unmerited inventions. What if we could make it easier to ensure that only the
most worthwhile inventions got twenty years of monopoly rights? What if we could offer a
way to protect the inventor’s investment while still safeguarding the marketplace of ideas
from bad inventions? What if we could make informed decisions about scientifically complex
problems before the fact, rather than trying to reform the system ex post? What if we could
harness collective intelligence to replace bureaucracy?
This Article argues that we should reform the patent system by re-designing the institution
of patent examination. Our existing legal mechanisms for awarding the patent monopoly are
constructed around the outdated assumption that only expert bureaucrats can produce
dispassionate decisions in the public interest. Building upon what we have learned from online and off-line systems of collaboration, we can now use the tools available to combine the
wisdom of expert scientific communities of practice with the legal determinations of a
trained Patent Office staff.

Trademark Law and the Social Construction of Trust: Creating the Legal Framework for On-Line Identity

Trademark Law and the Social Construction of Trust: Creating the Legal Framework for On-Line Identity
83 Wash. U. L. Q. 1733

Noveck, Beth
01/01/2006

The intellectual property system has fostered many debates, including recent ones, regarding how the system affects access to knowledge. Yet, before one can access, one must preserve. Two interconnected problems posed by the growth of online creation illustrate the predicament. First, unlike analog creations, important digital creations such as e-mails and word-processed documents are mediated and controlled by second parties. Thus, although these creations are core intellectual property, they are not treated as such. Service providers and software makers terminate or deny access to people’s digital property all the time. In addition, when one dies, some service providers refuse to grant heirs access to this property. The uneven and unclear management of these creations means that society will lose access to perhaps the greatest chronicling of human experience ever. Accordingly, this Article investigates and sets forth the theoretical foundations to explain why and how society should preserve this property. In so doing the Article finds that a second problem, which can be understood as one of control, arises.

This Article is the first in a series of works aimed at investigating the nature and extent of control one may have or exert over a work. As such, this Article begins the project by examining the normative theories behind creators’, heirs’, and society’s interests in the works. All three groups have interests in preservation, but the basis for the claims differs. In addition, an examination of the theoretical basis for these claims shows that the nature of the attention economy in conjunction with labor- and persona-based property theories support the position that in life a creator has strong claims for control over her intangible creations. Yet, the Article finds that historical and literary theory combined with recent economic theory as advanced by Professors Brett Frischmann and Mark Lemley regarding spillovers—positive externalities generated by access to ideas and information—reveals two points. First, these views support the need for better preservation of digital intellectual property insofar as it is infrastructure and has the potential for spillover effects. Second, although the creator may be best placed to manage and exert control of the works at issue, once the creator dies, literary, historical, and economic theory show that the claims for control diminish if not vanish. The explication and implications of this second point are explored elsewhere. This Article lays the groundwork for seeing that creators may need and have powerful claims for access and control over their works but that these same claims are necessarily limited by an understanding of the nature of creation and creative systems. The dividing line falls between life and death. The life and death distinction that this Article offers seeks to balance creators’ interests in control over a work and society’s interests in fostering later expressions and creations of new works. This Article examines the life side of the line.

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