2,532 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
In the wake of the recent Beijing floods, which caused at least 77 deaths as they rushed through the capital July 21, the crowd took to the web to map the most heavily impacted areas. The citizens’ joint crowdmapping effort not only materialized prior to the government-sanctioned map, but according to TechPresident, it also proved more accurate and intuitive.
With Beijing’s drainage systems completely overwhelmed after the downpours, Chinese web users started to crowdmap the floods on Google Maps. One popular map, compiled by netizen “goldengrape,” labeled 40 areas of the city as hazardous, highlighting specific dangers in each area (low-lying intersections or missing manholes, for example). The map spread quickly on Sina, Sohu, and Tencent — China’s most popular microblogging services, called “Weibos” — arriving a full day before the Beijing Water Authority released its official flood map, which many complained was overdue and difficult to interpret.
Critics continue to lambast the Chinese authorities for their lack of disaster preparation, comparing this recent infrastructure failure to the deadly high-speed-rail crash on July 23, 2011. In both cases, distributed knowledge and citizen journalism kept the Chinese public informed. Though China’s so-called “Great Firewall” still stands, the Chinese Communist Party can’t completely censor the country’s 300 million Internet users, leading to an inevitable dichotomy between the official narrative and the Weibo version of events.
Simply put, the crowd is driving transparency in China — and quite possibly saving lives in the process.