software also enable rapid progression from data collection to analysis and dissemination, which can allow results to feed back into data collection. It is frequently possible to move from virtually no data to comprehensive data in a very short time. For example, an entire city can be mapped in just a couple of days using street mapping software and volunteers who are motivated to collect, assemble, and present information.
One risk of new methods of data collection is that the amount of data collected can be overwhelming. Data therefore need to be aggregated and summarized. “I say ‘summarize’ instead of ‘simplify,’” said Vinck, because data need to be made more consumable without decreasing their value.
An especially useful way to summarize data is through the use of maps. For example, the LRA Crisis Tracker is a real-time data collection and mapping platform that tracks the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa.1 Vinck also cited the Satellite Sentinel Project, in which the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is involved, that seeks to deter atrocities by focusing world attention on threats to civilians.2 This project uses what a few years ago would have been military-grade satellite data for the purposes of protection and warning.
Another project of the Har vard Humanitarian Initiative is PeacebuildingData.org, which seeks to give a voice to the people involved in peacebuilding and reconstruction processes. It features analyses and data from large-scale surveys in countries affected by mass violence and aims to bridge the gap between peacebuilding as intended by policymakers and its implementation and perception on the ground. Survey takers seek answers to questions such as: What have people experienced? How is the peacebuilding process affecting them? What do they think should be done? The information is collected digitally, which makes it faster to produce and results in better quality. Working in just a few countries, the project has sought to build a baseline of information that can be revisited every few years to gauge changes. It also can single out individual projects to determine whether they have been successful or not. An important application of such efforts is to help determine the extent to which the investments of the international community have led to peacebuilding.