Open-source research improves government services, but is it an exaggeration to say open-data also helps federal agencies save lives? We don’t think so. Just look at the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of the virus’ outbreak, multiple organizations produced open-source resources for governments to address and tackle common challenges the pandemic posed, ultimately aiding in the response and recovery efforts around the world.
Here at Tesla Government, a number of our open-source research projects have uncovered efficient, cost-reducing, and collaborative solutions to individuals and communities around the world. We contend they, too, ultimately save lives. The following case studies are illustrations of some of the open-source solutions we’ve delivered to our clients.
Ukraine Conflict and Troop Tracker
The situation in Ukraine is fast-moving. Shifts in the conflict happen daily, often making paper-based tracking too slow and, therefore, irrelevant. More importantly, with antiquated tracking methods, decision-making becomes difficult. But with advanced technology and geospatial data readily and openly available, simple dots on a map transform into critical data points that predict trends and tell a powerful story.
The Ask: Most of our open-source projects start out as a research request. But in some cases, like this one, the project doesn’t start with an ask from a client. Instead, together with our knowledge experts, our GIS team uses real-time data to track metrics and top searches across multiple dashboards to predict upcoming requests. That was the case here. In fact, most of the work done on this project happened before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Product: Our team pulled together open source infrastructure data and supplemented it with external data feeds to analyze, document, and visualize the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, tracking items such as troop sightings, territory captured, armed engagement, and civil unrest. After sifting through data to ensure its accuracy, our staff built corresponding datasets and our GIS analysts compiled the data and created interactive products for our clients.
The Impact: The Ukraine Conflict and Troop Tracker answered questions such as:
- Are civilians fleeing the country?
- Where are the displaced populations going?
- Which border crossings are safe?
- Where are the troops located?
- What is the strength of each army at any given time?
- Who controls what terrain in the country? Have any areas been reclaimed?
Ultimately, this product gives decision-makers real-time situational awareness and valuable insight into the conflict from a policy and humanitarian perspective.
Russia and Ukraine Wheat Exports
Russia is the largest exporter of wheat, one of the world’s most vital food grains. More than a quarter of the world’s wheat exports come from Russia and Ukraine combined, and together they cover more than 70 percent of Egypt’s imported wheat demand. Since the beginning of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the United States and its allies have warned that the flow of wheat and grain could be disrupted as a result of aggression and economic sanctions.
The Ask: Who imports wheat from Russia and/or Ukraine? What is the trade value?
The Project: Our team leveraged mapping technology to address the potential impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on wheat exports, specifically, and global food security, in general. Our GIS specialists researched and leveraged several global open source datasets to identify wheat crops and grain elevators in the region. By aggregating the trade value we helped predict agricultural commodity market shock to reveal any relevant trends affecting price and supply. We then created a story map to help stakeholders and policymakers understand the scope of the potential disruption on the world’s food supply.
The Impact: With the price of food already high because of global inflation, importers of wheat may need to seek alternatives, triggering global food shortages and putting political stability in countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan at risk. The Russia-Ukraine war, while tragic on its own merits, could also have a direct impact on global food security and negatively influence the world’s most vulnerable people.
Although open-source tools have been around since the 1980s, the use of open-source approaches has grown recently in an effort to modernize federal agencies’ operations. The following project is one example of leveraging machine learning and AI for international relations.
The Ask: This was another project whose genesis was not a client request. Rather, this tool is part of StateToday, a larger interactive platform Tesla Government is developing for State Department offices, that allows analysts and policymakers to better understand relationships between sovereign states.
The Project: Diplomatica pulls open-source data like global headlines, articles from multiple foreign policy think tanks, and other diplomatic events to analyze diplomatic relationships between two chosen states to give an estimate of their relationship across time, whether positive, neutral, or negative. StateToday is tracking relationships by incorporating machine learning models into our platform. Our models are trained by subject matter experts to characterize, categorize, and quantify international diplomacy. This information can then be integrated with the data created by individual bureaus and offices within the Department.
The Impact: Diplomatica allows analysts to rapidly gather and share knowledge about complex global relations while staying informed on their areas of interest.
Why Open-Source Research for Federal Agencies?
Open-source research offers a number of advantages to governments seeking efficient and sustainable solutions to modern challenges. Open-data approaches lower costs, increase transparency, and encourage collaboration, allowing federal agencies with similar problems to solve them without reinventing the wheel.
But as with any technology project, expertise is critical in creating, using, and managing open-source solutions. Open-source projects need talented people who have experience in government and teams who know the history, involved parties, and politics of a particular subject so they extract information that is actually useful.
Tesla Government clients are working to address critical needs around the world, with real-life implications. Our open-source solutions offer them a complete understanding and allow them to make the best possible decisions. When missions and lives are on the line, we provide the clarity, context, and confidence our clients demand.