Information communications technology (ICT) is playing a key role in responding to the earthquake in Nepal, according Joseph Guay, writing in the TechTank blog at Brookings. Effective information management, he writes, is critical to delivering shelter and food to more than 3 million people.
Thousands of online volunteers, he adds, are using platforms like Tomnod and Humanitarian Open Street Map to detect damage to buildings and roads from satellite imagery provided free by Digital Globe and Google’s Skybox. And Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response (AIDR) helps process and filter the hundreds of thousands of tweets to filter actionable information related to the crisis.
Although not addressing Nepal specifically, in a video, Patrick Meier, director of social innovation at the Quatar Computing Research Institute, describes how this might work. Digital humanitarians look at pictures posted on Twitter, identify ones that show infrastructure damage, rate the level of infrastructure damage, and georeference the location to provide actionable information. (His example deals with Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.)
Nevertheless, writes Guay at Brookings, “…the increase in volume, velocity, and variety of data available to responders has also led to an ‘innovation-action gap,’ as a multitude of humanitarian actors still find it difficult to integrate and standardize efforts to collect, verify, and share knowledge for real-time decision making in a variety of complex crises situations.”
Consequently, Guay has “…put together a team of software engineers, aeronautics researchers, geo-spatial intelligence experts, epidemiologists and public health practitioners, disaster responders, and public policy specialists to try to make sense of the information mess that’s coming out of Nepal.”
He concludes, “Such an investigation may lead to the innovative (and evidence-based) design of a fully functional, near-real time, interoperable data dashboard for multiple users and stakeholders, linking traditional decision-makers (NGOs, IOs, host-country governments, and affected communities themselves) with the digital humanitarian communities that produce and analyze such data. We hope.”