ReliefWeb is the world’s leading online gateway to information on humanitarian emergencies and disasters. It is designed to assist the international humanitarian community in effective delivery of emergency assistance, and provides timely, reliable and relevant information as events unfold, while emphasising the coverage of forgotten or neglected emergencies at the same time. ReliefWeb teams in Kobe, New York and Geneva update the website around the clock, and broker information from over 2,500 humanitarian organisations.
The latest site redesign was launched in January 2005, allowing users to more efficiently access information most critical to their specific needs and interests. ReliefWeb’s outputs and achievements in 2005 took place against the backdrop of sudden-onset natural disasters unparalleled in recent history, not least the Indian Ocean tsunami, the hurricane season in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the South Asia earthquake.
- Facilitate more effective and efficient sharing of humanitarian information with increased user control and reduction of overload through redesign of ReliefWeb
- Provide improved and more timely map production capacity
- Facilitate wider information exchange through partner websites using content syndicated from ReliefWeb
- Establish closer ties with the academic sector to promote humanitarian principles through sharing of humanitarian policy and issues materials
- Ensure regular communication and relationship building with information partners to maintain the quality and timeliness of information on emergency response activities
ReliefWeb was enhanced in 2005, with revised content management policies and systems upgrades. Following a tradition of user-centred design, ReliefWeb took advantage of the latest testing techniques to analyse users’ information needs in order to prioritise information hierarchies on the site.
Nearly 40,000 documents and maps were posted in 2005, representing a 70 percent increase on 2004. Dramatic peaks in site usage were seen in the months after the tsunami (with over 7.5 million page views during the first quarter) and after the Pakistan earthquake (with over 8 million page views during the fourth quarter). Twenty four-hour coverage provided by three duty stations meant that timely information was put out. The ReliefWeb office in Kobe, Japan, was especially important, given the task of updating the site on the Asian emergencies.
The ReliefWeb vacancies service also published over 8,500 job announcements during the year, a 50 percent increase on 2004.
ReliefWeb gave high visibility to forgotten humanitarian emergencies, including in Somalia, Uganda, Togo and the Sahel. It also raised the profile of themes such as gender and armed conflict, humanitarian reform, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and resource mobilisation.
Regular editorial meetings within OCHA helped to prioritise humanitarian emergencies in order to strengthen early warning, public information and advocacy efforts. Thematic material in the Policy and Issues section also received increased attention.
A new work flow system distributing the posting of thematic documents across the three ReliefWeb offices led to an increase of over 1,000 such documents on the site.
The production and sharing of maps was up 15 percent on 2004, with more timely maps for Asia and Africa-based disasters. Data sharing was further supported through the development of new geospatial repositories, map-related partnerships and outreach at external events. A strategic partnership with IFRC lead to collaboration in map production between the two offices. In the months after the tsunami, maps and graphics created for USG press conferences were produced in collaboration with OCHA desks and field offices. ReliefWeb maps were also used in the production of OCHA publications.
ReliefWeb convened three meetings to build partnerships and strengthen best practices in the exchange of humanitarian information. This included a meeting of the Humanitarian IT Network in Geneva and a regional Humanitarian Information Network (HIN) workshop in Panama, organised in conjunction with the OCHA regional office.
The HIN in Panama brought together information management practitioners from Latin America and the Caribbean, and focused on preparedness measures for the 2005 hurricane season, work towards standards for inter-operability between different information systems, and building a regional community of practice. An Africa-based workshop is planned for 2006.
ReliefWeb continued to strengthen relations with information partners to improve the quality and timeliness of information on emergency responses. All three regional teams undertook outreach work, including at conferences such as Interaction, the Web4Dev forum, Global Knowledge Partnership, the UN’s DPI-NGO annual event and with the DPKO and NATO situation centres.
ReliefWeb increased content output by 70 percent, as well as use of the redesigned website, especially during response to disasters.
The turnaround of maps was improved, with a total of 860 published in 2005.
Partner organisations, including NGOs and OCHA field websites, started using web feeds from ReliefWeb. Many partner websites now also include direct hyperlinks to the site.
ReliefWeb enhanced information-sharing partnerships within the academic and policy fields, and integrated the updating of Policy and Issues section of the site in the regular work of the three ReliefWeb duty stations.
Work on technical services and infrastructure, editorial policy and extending information networks was adversely affected by the heavy workload that resulted from coverage of the major Asian disasters.
In spite of a new navigation scheme and more integrated content, intensive follow-up was required on several aspects of the technical infrastructure of ReliefWeb, involving work with IBM to ensure optimum functionality of search and filter tools, increase server stability and remove inconsistencies from the site. These technical problems will become a major focus of work in 2006.