• A free mini-guide on how to blog a conference in detail, by Ethan Zuckerman and Bruno Giussani.

Search LoIP

  • Web LoIP

Get LoIP per email

  • Enter your email address:


Books by Bruno Giussani

« Mad blogger disease | Main | Slowing down, quickly »

March 23, 2006


Hi – a couple of comments/thoughts:

Post 9/11, a Pittsburgh University public health expert called Ronald E. LaPorte proposed an “Internet Civil Defence Against Bioterrorism”. He described an “an ever alert, flexible electronic-matrix of civil defense” which could help government, NGOs, business and the public collaborate more effectively. He argued that Neighbourhood Watch schemes reduced crime by 25–75% and combining social monitoring with the Net might similarly lower bioterrorism risks. “…we can have 20 million educated, committed, and interconnected volunteers worldwide on the outlook for the prodrome of bioterrorism….In addition, with its operational effectiveness this network will increase the resilience of our social fabric, building a sense of belonging and identity.”

I wonder if there are some ideas to learn from this proposal. For instance, could GPHINN be missing a “high touch” human approach in its predominately “high tech” monitoring (although they do of course also use humans to analyse software results)? Remember the shock realisation of US intelligence post 9/11 that they didn't in fact have any meaningful on-the-ground intelligence, it was all hi-tech electronic whisperings that didn’t help them really understand what was going on.

So could GPHINN use a network of human listening posts, co-ordinated by electronic comms, on the ground in key regions and listening out for physical rather than digital whispers/gossip/stories/patterns/trends, etc. All of which gets added into the GPHIN database to be analysed by their software. (You can get quite sophisticated semantic analysis software these days to spot patterns within free text speech taken from depth interviews for instance). Just wondering if sometimes that would catch stuff the other system would miss, or catch it sooner. Unless of course there's such confidence that GPHIN electronic monitoring can spot everything that needs to be spotted.

I also wonder if there should be some kind of incentive in place for the public to actively keep a lookout for and report information. For instance, would people be encouraged to send in suspicious signs that could lead to a disease being spotted early if every legitimate posting was automatically entered into a draw for a monthly cash prize.

Perhaps the danger of too much low-quality clutter outweighs this approach, but the right incentive to galvanise people into being an active part of the alert system makes sense to me.

Then there’s the opposite approach (not at all mutually exclusive though) where reverse text billing can help with ongoing funding. So texting a number to alert any
suspicious signs of outbreak costs 50p, or whatever, and that revenue gets split between GPHINN and mobile operator. (With the right incentive people happily pay money to participate in a chance of winning, e.g. the lottery).

Finally, I definitely think that mobiles are the key to any consumer-based input device. What if people could just text, say, ALERT to a number, then perhaps get into an auto text response mini multiple choice question and answer session to determine the typology of disease warning, etc. (Their mobile’s geographic location should automatically be part of the information).

In regards to your post. Another Canadian company is using the backbone of a system like GPHIN to deliver real time alerting to the global public. www.avianalert.com provides alerts by email and SMS. I think your idea of input to the alert system by SMS would be a great addition. Perhaps the Avian Alert founders can work with their technology partners to add this technology.

The problem with the avian alert system is that it uses a static geographic location. For example, a user can submit a request to be alerted if a human outbreak occurs in Hessen, Germany. However, if the person is travelling in Spain and an outbreak occurs in that region, they will not be alerted, even though they have their mobile phone with them.

I hope you find this interesting.

Great Blog!


Bruno I greatly appreciate all the excellent information you are providing on your website.

Kind Regards


The comments to this entry are closed.

Upcoming conferences