Monday, November 5, 2012

Super summary on - when Gov fails technology-enabled disaster response strives

Dealing with Disasters by Gisli Olafsson is a superb narrative on how technology has boosted the ways in which humanitarian response is taking place.

"The hierarchical level of disaster response works very well in most disasters, since the majority of disasters are small enough to handle locally or with mutual-aid support from nearby cities. Even for medium level disasters, most disasters can be handled at the state level, with minimal support from the federal level. It is however when mega-disasters, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy occur that the entire response model gets stretched beyond its limits. The system was simply not built for so many cities, counties and states to all be experiencing disaster of this magnitude, all at the same time."
 "At the same time we have seen how through an explosion in mobile phone ownership and through social media and networks, people affected by these major disasters are not only communicating their needs but also leveraging those same technologies to coordinate their own community response often independent of the official response channels. Although this community lead response at the moment may result in some duplication of efforts, it in most cases ends up meeting the gaps the official response leaves. This community based response also starts immediately after the disaster, way before the first responders arrive."

Closing the voice-enabled disaster communication project but looking to do more


Summary of the VoiceICT4D project outcomes

  • LIRNEasia, through a stakeholder forum, advocated the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Center (DMC) to move towards a multi-agency situational-awareness platform by creating a register of alerting authorities and then sharing it's call center and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system resources for emergency communication.
  • The “Do you Hear Me” video, communicating the need for voice-enabled Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), to empower community-based emergency coordination, was visited by 496 viewers, of which 48 or them shared their knowledge on the subject. UNISDR debut film festival on DRR, selected our video as as one of the best three in the category of “best human interest story”
  • Peer-reviewed scientific articles presented the realization study evidence emphasizing the practical technical instabilities and deficits in those technologies. The message was news to most researchers and practitioners. IVR-based solutions are gradually gaining momentum.

What next?

A common consensus by various stakeholders are that the Freedom Fone IVR and Sahana disaster management system integration must be completed. The integration would serve non-latin scripting language and lesser computer literate communities. Moreover, develop an off the shelf implementable comprehensive crisis management solution that can be integrated with main stream media or other emergency management organizations.

There are three broad emergency communication use cases that were discovered through the VoiceICT4D activities:
  1. a radio station would manage a missing persons registry comforting concerned citizens of who are missing and who were found
  2. citizen journalists would share risk information of incident reports to effectively coordinate and respond to those troubled situations
  3. community-based disaster management organizations would coordinate their rescue and relief efforts using interactive voice.
The VoiceICT4D project intends to seek resources to complete the integration, implement, and pilot the comprehensive end-to-end crisis management system. The pilot study would investigate the utility and robustness of such an implementation when applied to the three use cases above. Moreover, the pilot would consider implementing them in diverse environments to better understand the adaptability of the technology. VoiceICT4D would transition from the invention stage to an implementation stage; where the technology would be field tested to offer a stable solution to the global crisis management community.