Social media saves lives in Syria
The new smartphone and computer app Sentry acts as an early warning alert system using data from human observers and remote sensors to warn of the Assad regime attacks.
As the Syrian civil war drags on, an American company hopes to take advantage of the power of social media to help save lives.
Rebels in the Northwestern Idlib province make their last stand against government forces, backed by heavy Russian air raids. And as they brace for the next government offensive, both the rebels and civilians in the area are looking for a new app to help provide an early warning when the air raids come in. The massacre has forced innovation. Citizens, at first, used walkie-talkies to warn of warplanes. Rescue teams developed more sophisticated ways to free families from the rubble. In hospitals, doctors developed solutions for when the lights go out and the drugs dry. And then in 2016, a team of computer developers found a way to link all of those efforts.
DIY WEAPONS OF THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR
It’s called “Sentry” – a smartphone and computer application that acts as an alert system, using data from both human observers and report sensors. John Jaeger, one of the co-creators, calls it a groundbreaking app that could indicate a breakthrough in the early warning systems for the detection by the use of “crowdsourcing” as the most important data points. “These comments are of aircraft in the air and they are facts like what kind of plane, what direction it’s going, and then of course things such as time of day and where the observation was made.” Jaeger added that the system “then makes a determination of where and when that aircraft could go. This provision makes a warning for the local population and the potentially affected communities, and that warning about the popular social media platforms.”
It is fairly easy to use. When the user selects a military aircraft, they enter the data in three designated fields. The data are then processed by the app, which creates a list of potential targets that are based on estimates of the aircraft trajectory triggering warning messages on social media, and after an air raid in the villages and towns in the whole area. Dave Levin, another co-founder, says the company is “doing a lot of outreach to try to get as much as possible to make people aware of the program and insight into the use of the app and, in particular, outreach to women.”
Levin and the Jaeger are both Americans with experience in the middle east conflict. Jaeger is a former employee of the State Department, and he used his experience and contacts to the funding for the project of countries, including Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States, as well as private donors. He says that the purpose, in addition to saving lives, was to help strengthen the Syrian people to help themselves.