Sunday, August 31, 2008

Technical definintion: "early warning system"

A technical definition for Early Warning Systems (EWS) in hard to find. The work on classification of EWS requires a precise definition for EWS. The wikipedia definition fo EWS is what is quoted by the United Nations, very much human centric with natural disasters in mind. In my opinion EWS and Observer Controller systems have a lot in common (Figure 1). As they both try to predict and correct system's response. However, EWS can be broken down to a chain of systems that are distinctly a chain of communication systems.

Figure 1 Feedback control system model for EWS

I propose the following definition -

Definition "Early Warning System (EWS)": A chain of information communication systems comprising sensor, detection, decision, and broker systems, in the given order, working in conjunction forecasting and signaling disturbances adversely affecting the stability of the physical world, giving sufficient time for the response system to prepare resources and response actions in minimizing the impact on the stability of the physical world.

A paper in relation to the proposed definition as well as an introduction to the necessary and sufficient components can be found in the blog with title: "towards a definintion for EWS".

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Audio content production and delivery is the first step to instigating citizen journalism

Since October 2007, I have been voluntarily engaging in building capacity within Sarvodaya with the intent of mobilizing rural communities in developing local content. If we are to divide content as text, audio, and video, the question is "which one of the mediums do we start with first, in a Sri Lanka?"

We can rule out video based on cost of production and need for professionalism. Similarly, the production and distribution of text; i.e. a newsletter, would be rather costly and would be hard to recover the costs from the subscribers. In general Sri Lankan people are less inclined to reading and writing; i.e. even in a long distance bus one would observe nearly zero people to read a book or a news paper. However, would be apt to listening to the bus radio or even their built in FM radio on the mobile phone. Therefore, Sarvodaya policy was to use audio as a medium to instigate the concept of citizen journalism within its mandate.

My belief is developing audio, which is as simple as pressing the record button and speaking one's mind in to a microphone is far more simpler than electronically composing a story or making a video that is meaningful. Moreover, delivery of audio requires much less bandwidth opposed to video.

The community based audio production and delivery concept was presented to an audience at LIRNEasia by my colleague Chamindha Rajakaruna to get an opinion on the foreseen strategy. The real-time blog on the colloquium titled "Sarvodaya satellite and web radio, a precursor to community-radio, the way forward and challenges" highlights the concept. The colloquium was valuable to us in seeing the way forward; especially in separating the tow intents: 1) Internal closed user group broadcast of content on Sarvodaya philosophy, governance, and activities 2) pure citizen journalism creating a platform for people to voice their opinions and exchange ideas. I have written a comment on the LIRNEasia blog under the same colloquium topic saying that in a country where broadband in rural areas is still in its infancy an alternative broadcast technology and a peer-to-peer technology are both necessary, if Sarvodaya is to achieve intentions 1) & 2).

This community based audio content production and delivery project is a spin off from the past HazInfo project, which concluded the need for both the WorldSpace addressable satellite radios for emergency alerts and Dialog/Microimage Java enabled mobile phones for SMS alerts as the two technologies that could provide complementary redundancy in a closed user group last-mile hazard warning system. While mobile phones have been embraced in to the daily lives of people in Sri Lanka, the WorldSpace satellite radio remains a new and unheard information communication technology in Sri Lanka. Therefore, the greater challenge is developing a sustainable platform for the satellite radios as a technology that is always used. Deshodaya Media Production Unit took on the challenge of developing connect through a community participatory approach to bring life to the channel dedicated to Sarvodaya.

Given that the satellite radio and mobile phone technologies are currently in operation, it is ideal to use these two technologies as basis to test the content production and development processes such that when broadband with internet is widely accessible in rural Sri Lanka, the citizens would have the know how to develop MP3 audio content for exchanging information.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Preliminary work of ealry warning system classification presented

I was delighted to have had the opportunity of presenting the preliminary outline of the theoretical work towards classifying early warning systems at LIRNEasia's colloquium this past Tuesday. The first proposition presented to the audience was on establishing that the necessary and sufficient components of an EWS being a sensor, detector, decision, broker, and response system. In EWS systems such as sensor and detection are coupled and termed as detection and monitoring. However, the distinction between sensor and detection systems; namely defining the operations, were resolved. The LIRNEasia blog, titled- what are these monkey's doing in our blog, recognizes that theory can and should be used to model response systems. It was clear that the presentation was too long. Best is to break down the presentation in to 3 parts addressing the 3 primary classifiers. LIRNEasia would like me to address the propositions on the LIRNEasia blog to start a discuss, which I will in the near future.

Click here for the slides