Tracking the LRA: Crowdsourced Data to Stop an Army
The LRA Crisis Tracker
An organization called Invisible Children started the LRA Crisis Tracker in 2011  in order to track the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). This early notification system allows communities to hear about attacks and movements of the LRA as soon as possible (you can watch their video here). By having many communities be connected they are able to warn each other about what has happened. Before the tracker was launched the reporting of this information was done by multiple groups, but did not collaborate with one another, and, “4 out of 5 LRA incidents were not reported before the LRA Crisis Tracker” . Now, “3,182 LRA-related incidents [have been] reported on the Crisis Tracker to date” , allowing community centers and organizations stay updated on the atrocities that are happening in close to real time.
Why It Works
Overall, this tracker should be extremely effective when looking at it within the scope of the wisdom of crowds theory. In order for a crowd to be, “wise,” there must be four conditions met, according to Surowiecki : diversity of opinion, independence, decentralization, aggregation.
The LRA Crisis tracker relies on communities to provide their local information that would not otherwise be available to those in other areas, or those using the service. It is both diverse and independent of the other communities. More so, the information that is being collected by the tracker is coming from many different communities that all have their local experiences to report. These aspects of the tracker significantly satisfy the first three elements for wiser crowds in order to happen; however, it is the way in which this information is aggregated that allows this valuable information that communities have always had independently to become a powerful resource.
The LRA Crisis Tracker not only provides a map interface for users, it also has an Incident Verification Rating, “based on the reliability of the source, where or not the source itself portrays the incident as reliable, confidence in the identity of the actors involved in the incident, and the degree of detail given in the source report,” and an LRA Actor Verification Scale, “measur[ing] the degree of confidence that members of the armed group involved in an incident were members of the LRA… [with a] scale [that] takes into account the type of incident, the number of primary sources, and the number of indicators observed in the incident that are typically correlated with the LRA,” in an effort to provide the most accurate information .
The data collection for the tracker also goes through a six step process in order to gain reports from as many sources as possible, along with review by multiple data coders, so that the information can be filtered for accurate, high-quality reports, allowing the less accurate accounts to not be given as much weight, or not appear in the tracker all together. This allows the data set to be filtered with useful information from multiple resources that are working to track incidents so that there is never a lack of information.
Overall, this crowd sourced data has a system in place that is well organized, and has diversified, reliable reports, making the LRA Crisis Tracker invaluable to the communities in the LRA-affected regions. With bi-weekly and quarterly reports, and daily updates available thought Twitter, this information is available to anyone and has impacted many stories, peace efforts, and legislation to help end the LRA.