In a recent blog post I referred in passing to some of the hype surrounding “crowd-sourcing” projects in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

That’s not to criticise the volunteers – mostly in the United States – who collectively devoted hundreds of hours to charting the needs of quake survivors on online maps, based on SMS texts sent from the disaster zone.

My point was that their gate-crashing of the relief response in Haiti posed a welcome challenge to the traditional humanitarian system – but also generated hyperbole about the effectiveness of crowd-sourcing in actually saving lives.

“There is, without question, a great deal of hype around technology,” BBC Media Action says in a new policy briefing on how communications are used in emergencies.

“Extravagant claims have been made in recent years for its ability to solve everything from election fraud to Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) management. Such claims are often based on little hard evidence, particularly on the practical use of communications technology in emergencies.”