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Digital volunteering in disaster risk reduction
In recent years, information from community members contributed online has proved highly useful in emergencies.
Information sharing activities by private citizens using social media, smartphones, and web mapping tools have been termed volunteered geographic information (VGI), or digital volunteering.
The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC's Hazard Note 28 examines PhD research by Dr Billy Haworth on the potential role of VGI in fostering community engagement in bushfire preparation. Findings show that VGI is more than just technology – it is about people sharing their knowledge and mapping collaboratively as a social practice. It presents opportunities for citizen empowerment in line with shared responsibility, but also challenges, with power moving away from the traditional command and control of emergency services.
This research provides a clearer path for emergency service agencies to best-utilise these technologies for and with communities, helping to increase volunteering sustainability, community engagement and disaster resilience.
Dr Haworth completed his PhD at the University of Sydney in 2016.