1. What is Family Tracing and Reunification?
  2. Why RapidFTR?
  3. Why not just use Google Person Finder?
  4. How is the project financed?
  5. Will this be used in Haiti?
  6. So, if this is a student project, what happens afterwards?
  7. What's happening next?


What is Family Tracing and Reunification?

In times of crisis, families get separated and dispersed. Children get lost. Organizations devote lots of time and effort to bringing these families back together, through a process called Family Tracing and Reunification, or FTR.

There is often no set system for reuniting these families, but generally it works like this: A child's information is collected on paper forms. A photo is taken. Maybe that information gets digitized and spread piecemeal to other NGOs, but often it just sits in a box in an office waiting to get typed up. There's no central repository and no easy way to retrieve, update or share information. Every day apart from family is crucial to the well being of a child, especially infants. Even small inefficiencies have lasting impact and short delays are too long.

Why RapidFTR?

We call our project Rapid FTR because that's our goal. We want to streamline and speed up the Family Tracing and Reunification process, using small handheld devices that can collect information in the field and post to a database. The project involves developing an API, a web interface and platform specific applications for Android and Blackberry phones.

Why not just use Google Person Finder?

The Google Person Finder is an excellent online tool for keeping track of tracing requests and sharing information about individuals in times of crisis.  We support their efforts, and we're amazed by the progress they've made.  If you're interested in collaborate projects of this nature, you should definitely check them out.

At heart, though, theirs is a different project.  RapidFTR is specifically designed to help NGOs in their efforts at family tracing and reunification.  Because data security is of utmost importance when children are at risk, it's imperative to keep strict limits on who can access our database.  One of the great strengths of Google Person Finder is that the data is available to the public, both for input and retrieval of information.  But because child data is so sensitive, we can't use their database to store information collected by FTR workers in the field.  That being said, we're keeping our eyes on their work, checking out the schema they've designed, and looking for ways to incorporate some of gains they've made into this project. 

How is the project financed?

RapidFTR is an Open Source project driven by volunteers, which means that all contributors are working on the project out of interest, or have had their time donated by their organizations.  You can volunteer your time as well: the code is openly distributed via our GitHub repository and is free to be used by anyone.  If you'd like to support RapidFTR in other ways, please get in touch.

Will this be used in Haiti?

It all depends on the speed of development and software tests.  We're working to get it up and running as quickly as possible, and the situation in Haiti shows that there is a very real need for RapidFTR.  But in the long run our goal is to have it ready to be deployed with first responders to any crisis situation, anywhere in the world.

So, if this is a student project, what happens afterwards?

RapidFTR was as a student project in fall 2009 by Jorge Just, Karla Calderon, Mustafa Bagladati, Rune Madsen and Dharmarajan Ayakkad. After the earthquake in Haiti, we saw the need and started the project with professional developers. Now, all students and developers are working voluntarily.

What's happening next?

Right now, we are trying to develop the RapidFTR application for web and BlackBerries. Next it will be implemented to be compatible with Android phones also. We will start user testing as soon as we have the application ready.


We are looking for experienced Ruby on Rails programmers. If you're interested in participating, please go to developer info.

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