ICT for disaster management in the Asia-Pacific region – Chapter for Commonwealth Ministers Reference Book

An adaptation of an essay by Daniel Stauffacher (Chairman of the ICT4Peace Foundation) and I will be published in the official Commonwealth Ministers Reference Book on behalf of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The Reference Book is the Secretariat’s primary communications tool to promote opportunity and potential within the 53 Commonwealth countries and is distributed to all Key Commonwealth Ministers, from Trade to Transport by the Secretariat. The publication will include approximately 35 articles that will be Sub-divided into logical sections that are designed to assist all Commonwealth Ministers and their respective officials in policy development, project initiation, procurement and control, as well as the day-to-day management of ministries/departments.  The Reference Book will also feature relevant, objective case studies on solutions that illustrate effective methods of dealing with a variety of problems and challenges experienced by modern-day Ministries, as well as a complete directory of all Commonwealth Ministries.

Download our essay, ICT for disaster management in the Asia-Pacific regionhere.

Download the original essay with all references written for the UN Global Alliance on ICT and Development (GAID), here.


Conflict Early Warning and ICTs

As noted first in this post, about 5 years ago, when InfoShare first started its activities in Sri Lanka, we designed a ICT framework based on the (what I believe to be flawed) FAST template for early warning that used ICTs to strengthen accountability of action taken or not taken by stakeholders in a conflict to prevent violent outbreaks of violence. 

I’ve uploaded an overview of our conceptual system here. Obviously it’s a bit dated now, but the core principles of the possibility of using ICT in conflict early warning frameworks are worth pursuing (after the Asian Tsunami of 2004, the interest in and frameworks for using ICTs for disaster early warning could be leveraged to design systems specifically geared to prevent, mitigate and effectively respond to violent ethno-political conflict).

Our system was designed with Groove Virtual Office in mind, which at the time we were using quite extensively, but can now be developed (cheaper and better) on any number of comparable collaborative workspaces, including web based versions such as Ning as well as using asynchronous technologies such as Google Gears as used on Google Docs

During my Masters research in Australia over 2004 – 2005, I developed some of these initial ideas further in a paper titled Computer Supported Collaborative Work in the North-Eastern Province in Sri Lanka.

Emergency text messaging – Two real life examples

More Adventures in Emergency Text-Messaging appeares in the New York Times and provides a fascinating insight into two instances where Short Message Service (SMS) was used to respond to real life emergencies in Purdue University and St. John’s University in the US.

At St. John’s, the “messages were sent so quickly that a student who helped subdue the suspect felt his cell phone vibrate with the information while he was restraining the gunman,” according to The Associated Press.

On the other hand, the system isn’t perfect. As a commentator to the post avers:

Well, I’m a law student at St. John’s University and I can tell you that the text messaging system did not work as well as this article contends.

I didn’t receive the text messages until 2:45. At 2:30, the facilities manager of our building came to class and told everybody to stay inside. At the end of class, I received 3 text messages from the university system simultaneously.

This may be Verizon’s fault, or the fact that I was in a basement classroom with poor reception perhaps had something to do with it. This doesn’t mean that St. John’s isn’t to be commended for implementing the text system, just that it shouldn’t be viewed as a panacea. In my situation, shoe leather reached me before the text message.

While it would be imprudent to rely solely on SMS based early warning, these two examples show that using such a system to complement and strengthen other emergency response plans can aid in more useful and timely responses.