HazInfo


I was invited to share my research with Stockholm Environment Institute Asia office in Bangkok. The intention was for SEI-Asia Researchers to possibly identify any areas for collaboration. I themed my talk on “ICT4D action research in Early Warning Systems”. It has been 10 years since I first began my research work in December of 2005. It was important to first establish an abstract definition of an EWS.
It was not all sunshine and fare weather that greeted us on the December 26th this year in Sri Lanka. Instead a country in a crisis dealing with the continuous week long rains washing away sides of hills and flooding (copy of Dec 26th landslide and flood warnings issued by DMC). While we were at the Hambantota exhibition, there was uncertainty in being cut-off from Colombo with flash floods crossing roads in various E/A/B network. Had the rains continued on the 26th we may have been stranded or had great difficulty returning to Colombo. An incident or situational map, like Google’s Alerthub, would have been informative in comforting the uncertainties.
It was seven years to this coming January that we launched our Last Mile HazInfo project, just one year after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It’s good to know that the project is still talked about. We are beginning work on a Tsunami + 10 initiative that will assess the impacts of post-tusnami. LIRNEasia also brought the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) to Sri Lanka. This software allows messages to be channelled through multiple media so that duplicate messages relayed through other means, such as radio or the Internet, can function as a backup in case mobile phones fail.
We recently conducted a training and an exercise with Sarvodaya Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members in Colombo, Matara, Nuwara-eliya, and Ratnpura Districts. This was an action of the feasibility study to enable Freedom Fone with voice-based emergency data exchange (FF4EDXL). The training involved exposing them to the Freedom Fone interactive voice response system. The exercise involved the participating CERT members using the Freedom Fone system to supply answers to a survey. Each response was recorded as an audio file (MP3) through the telephone call and stored in the FF system.
IDRC has been in the business of applying knowledge to development for forty years. Much better than straight Dollars or Renminibi. But then, that could be a self-serving statement, given we are in research and IDRC is our principal funder. Anyway, Chanuka Wattegama has written about all this in the Daily Mirror, and included references to two of our projects: The aim of the Last-Mile Hazard Warning System, an IDRC supported joint research project of Sarvodaya and LIRNEasia immediately after the 2004 tsunami, was to deploy various alert and notification wireless technologies intended to reduce the vulnerability of local communities to natural and manmade hazards in Sri Lanka. Adopting an ‘all-hazards, all-media’ approach, designed around a set of five wireless communication technologies: addressable satellite radios for emergency alerting, remote alarm devices, mobile phones, fixed phones and VSATs this research evaluated the pros and cons of each technology.
I had the opportunity attend the discussion by Tim Berners-Lee and Gordon Brown in Geneva, speak on the “future of the web“, a public lecture hosted by the Université de Genève, April 06, 2011. The two discussants didn’t have anything new to share; they were talking the same language of tapping in to the untapped through mobile phones; nothing new to LIRNEasia (see our Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid studies). The WWW Foundation has realized the reach of the mobile phone to deliver the web to those 80% that have not yet been exposed. What we were more eager to hear was the defense on the claim that the “web is dead, long live the internet“. In defense – “No the web isn’t dead” with the success story pointing to the Wikipedia.
In developing countries such as Sri Lanka, when government has no resources to deliver the essential public good of early warnings, alternate methods must be advocated – that was the idea of the HazInfo research project, where civil society in villages were given training to respond appropriately to alerts received from the Hazard Information Hub located at the Sarvodaya Head Office in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. The technology and organizational structure of the HazInfo last-mile hazard warning system proved to work as designed and drew valuable lessons for a full scale implementation. However, the major dilemma was in finding resources to sustain the system. The Hoteliers’ Association of Sri Lanka agreed to obtain services from Sarvodaya for a fee to train and certify the hotel staff in disaster response. This fee would go towards the OPEX of the HazInfo emergency response planning component and operationalize a 24/7/365 Hazard Information Hub for issuing alerts; but to kick start the endeavor a nominal CAPEX is required.
The design of the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program pilot (termed as the m-Health project) and findings from the Last-Mile Hazard Information Dissemination pilot (termed as the HazInfo projects) involvoing the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) were presented, yesterday, at the CAP Implementers Workshop organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). First Talk – The m-Health RTBP will be evaluating CAP or EDXL (Emergency Data Exchange Language) as means for disseminating health risk information to local health officials and community health care workers. Currently, the National Epidemiology Unit, in Sri Lanka, publishes a “Weekly Epidemiological Report” on the world wide web, a pdf file that can only be viewed on a personal computer. Paper copies of the same are delivered via postal mail to the relevant health officials. The latency in gathering the epidemiological data, analyzing, publishing, and disseminating is delayed as much as up to 3 weeks.
LIRNEasia’s Nuwan Waidyanatha will be making a presentation on ‘Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)’ at the ‘ITU Asia-Pacific Centres of Excellence Training/Workshop on Effective Use of Telecommunications/ICTs in Response to Disasters: Saving Lives, to be held on 24-28 November, 2008, in Kedah, Malaysia. The Training Workshop will focus on concepts and hands-on training on various technologies and applications that are suitable for deployment and aimed at facilitating rescue and relief operations in emergencies, especially in the aftermath of a disaster. The stated aims of the workshop are to: create awareness and demonstrate telecommunication technology options, facilities and services applicable for use in response to disasters or emergencies especially in disaster relief operations; provide practical experience to participants in using the telecommunication/ICT facilities and services during these operations; strengthen partnerships in disaster relief among international agencies/organizations, NGOs, industry, and governments as well as encourage roles of public sector or NGOs identify issues and challenges in countries in order to find ways to overcome them. This workshop is organized jointly by the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the ITU, Universiti Utara Malaysia (ITU CoE ASP UUM), the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications (MEWC), Malaysia and sponsored by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the […]
This episode of The Interview features an interview with Executive Director, Rohan Samarajiva on telecom regulations, disaster mitigation, preparedness and early warning, mobile phone usage at the BOP and a number of other technology related issues. The Interview – Rohan Samarajiva from CPA on Vimeo.
“We must realize the fact that disasters threaten sustained economic growth of the society and the country.” These were the words of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani addressing the opening ceremony of the first National Disaster Risk Management Conference. The function, reported Associated Press of Pakistan, was organized to mark the Disaster Awareness Day observed annually after the catastrophic earthquake which struck country’s northern areas in October 2005, killing 73,000 people and leaving 3.5 million homeless. On the other side of the border Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said there is a need of effective disaster management to mitigate the woes of the people in future calamities, with floods affecting several districts of Bihar and other parts of the country.
LIRNEasia’s Chanuka Wattegama will make the main presentation at a live webcast of a workshop on Disaster Risk Management in the Information Age, to be held from 8 – 9 October, 2008,  9 – 12 p.m. (ET), accessible at the following link: http://www.worldbank.org/edevelopment/live Co-organizers of the event include  the World Bank’s Global Information Communication and Technology Department, infoDev and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).
Natasha Udu-gama has been invited to represent LIRNEasia at the Second International United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response  (UN-SPIDER) Bonn Workshop: “Disaster Management and Space Technology – Bridging the Gap” in Bonn, Germany, from the 13th to 15th October 2008. Natasha will make a presentation on, ‘Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination’ at a session entitled, ‘Contribution of space-based technologies to existing and proposed Early Warning Systems’. This session will examine how public-private partnerships (PPP) centered on space-based technologies can enable the development, establishment and embedding of early warning systems. The event is organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), with the aim of providing a platform for brainstorming and in-depth discussion among decision-makers and experts from both the space technology and disaster management communities, academia and private companies. The UN-SPIDER was established as a programme of the UNOOSA, with the aim of providing universal access to all countries and relevant international and regional organizations to space-based information and services relevant to disaster management.
Nuwan Waidyanatha, project manager of the HazInfo program, has been invited to present a paper at the Second China Workshop on Information System of Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM-CHINA 2007) to be held on August 26-27, 2007 in Harbin, China. The paper entitled “‘Common Alerting Protocol Message Broker’ for Last-Mile Hazard Warning System in Sri Lanka: An Essential Component” will focus on proving the need for a CAP Broker for a Last-Mile Hazard Warning System. The general objective of the research was to evaluate the suitability of 5 ICTs deployed in varied conditions for their suitability in the Last-Mile of a national disaster warning system for Sri Lanka and possibly by extension to other developing countries. The Live Exercises conducted between November 2006 and May 2007 showed that the Hazard Information Hub (HIH) had a reliability of only 78% on average – a poor result, as the reliability of the HIH performing her set of functions was not meant to be any less than 95%. High reliability from the HIH was a necessity in order to provide as much time for the Community First-Responders to activate and complete the Last-Mile Community Emergency Response Plans.