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5 Ways to Harness Data and Technology for Disaster Response

5 Ways to Harness Data and Technology for Disaster Response

​When disaster strikes, real time updates about evolving crisis situations and information about those affected, including their needs and locations, are paramount to effective emergency response and better decision-making. Yet gathering essential data to provide rapid disaster relief involves many challenges ranging from security of aid workers to cultural barriers and difficulties in communication.

Here are five was we can gather and analyze data faster and better for disaster response:

1. Social Media

Platforms, like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, played a significant role in Nepal 2014 earthquake relief operations with tweets and hashtags used to gather and disseminate information about where aid is needed.

UNOCHA together with Standby Task Force used tweets from Nepal to develop a crisis map of priority areas of where aid was needed. The maps were continuously updated to provide relief workers in the field with the most up to date information.

2. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Relief organisations use UAVs to locate injured persons, survey disaster damage, deliver vital emergency supplies and otherwise operate in disaster areas where access for rescuers is fraught with danger.

  • OxySure Systems deploys DJI drones to provide respiratory and medical supplies.
  • The Lynx6-A attachment for drones scans areas for heartbeats and breathing.

UAVs also proved useful in capturing accurate aerial imagery to map areas affected by natural disasters.

  • DroneDeploy mobile app allows to explore map data directly from smartphone
  • 3DR’s Site Scan mapping platform presents fast aerial data acquisition with more detail than satellite imagery.
  • MapSwipe app allows users to swipe through satellite imagery of remote areas to draw detailed maps of local affected communities.

3. Sensors

Together with the Nicaraguan government, General Electric is working on installing 80 wireless sensors inside Masaya, one of the country’s active volcanoes, in order to gather real-time data to better predict its eruption via Predix, an open-source database.

4. Data

The UNOCHA has announced plans to establish a global humanitarian data centre in early 2017 to share information about outcomes of digital platforms implemented around the world and innovations that can be readily adopted to other regions.

5. Humans

While data tools and analytics can offer a variety of options, it is still up to individuals to draw conclusions and take actions. Which is why you should attend the AIDF Global Disaster Relief Summit 2017 featuring the “Data Strategy to Support Disaster Response & Resilience” panel that will cover:

  • Data collection, GIS and mapping: using drones to support relief operations
  • Strengthening resilience and early-warning systems through information sharing
  • How to achieve data exchange through cloud solutions
  • Addressing ethics & data privacy and the real data risks
  • Achieving an agile approach for communication and information management

Join your peers in ICT4D on 6-7 September 2017 in Washington D.C. to discuss how to improve emergency communication and connectivity to enable delivery of Sustainable Development Goals.