Satellite Images + Darfur + Internet = Crowdsourced Human Rights Monitoring

In a brilliant combination of technologies, Amnesty International is mixing regularly updated commercial satellite reconnaissance imagery with the web to crowdsource the monitoring of twelve selected villages in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The organization’s new Eyes on Darfur site collects recent satellite imagery of at-risk villages with detailed reports of the threats each faces. The photos will be updated every few days, allowing policymakers, journalists and the public to keep watch on villages in close-to-real time. The photos have good enough resolution to show vehicles, buildings, walls, vegetation — or massed soldiers. Another section of the site has archived photos of damaged or destroyed villages, along with slideshows of damage, video of atrocities and text reports on what happened. And of course, the site encourages visitors to take action by contacting government officials (though as my friend Burt Edwards pointed out when I showed the site to him, emails to the Sudanese president are probably not so effective).

The presentation is overall very impressive — one of the better uses of Flash to create a rich media environment I’ve seen. A hell of a job, and I hope it gets seen widely. The first military reconnaissance satellite launched just shy of 50 years ago; its designers could never have guessed that ordinary citizens from around the world would be using its descendents to try to save villages in a remote region of Africa.


Written by
Colin Delany
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