A new journal article on Sahana – “a free and open source disaster management information system developed in Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami” – sheds new light on the nature and application of FOSS in humanitarian aid.
I’ve long been a fan of Sahana‘s vision, and given below are some of my links to articles on the system I’ve penned before and an interview at Strong Angel III with Chamindra de Silva, a chief instigator of and contributor to Sahana.
The ACM paper has this diagram on Sahana’s deployment which I found interesting, particularly because it places Government agencies and NGOs in the same WAN of trust. In theory of course this is fine, but with the recent allegations of a rather serious nature against the government of aiding and abetting the abduction and disappearance of children in the East of Sri Lanka in particular, it would be less than desirable to have sensitive Camp Registry and Victim information that can be accessed by paramilitary groups (working with the State armed forces) who may use this information to do more harm than good and, at the very least, are not known for their partiality to information security.
I’m not sure about access protocols and internal data security in Sahana, but clearly, placing both the Government and I/NGO in the same network of trust is downright dangerous in Sri Lanka today. The central problem that arises thereof, and not limited to Sahana but all ICT4Peace and humanitarian aid system particularly in conflict zones is how to both keep the information generation, storage and dissemination as open as possible, but also as secure as possible. It is a challenge I’ve noted earlier and that I am very interested to discover how Sahana will grapple with in the future.
I wish them well.