The first rule of technologists working in crisis response is, don't make an app. The rule number two is, go back to rule number one. Now that I have got that out the door, I'd like to make a short…
As with any crisis and emergency situation, those who are directly affected do not have the time to tweet or update their Facebook status. Which means there is a majority of the population who is not directly affected and has…
Reflecting on some of my past projects, and trying to study the thought process of some of the projects that I have worked on, I thought of laying out some questions which can act as a set of “tips” for my future projects.
- Invest some time to understand the problem & hear it directly from the concerned parties or communities.
- Ask yourself: Is technology really needed here? Or is there a solution lying elsewhere?
- Study what technologies are already lying around or have been used by “concerned parties” or communities and how they are currently using it.
- Can your solution be built using existing technology that the people(“concerned parties” or community) already use? If not, try to spend a decent amount of time to find the answer to this question again. Chances are, it’s possible.
- Keep in mind that your solution should require minimal (or no training) i.e. The focus should be on a lower barrier to entry & a decreased learning curve. [If answer to 4 is still no]
- Build your solution in a way that you wouldn’t be needed at all after the implementation.
As a part of the ongoing efforts by the government, the task of reaching out to families seeking information about their relatives has been on top priority by the government officials. I was amazed at the government’s quick deployment of the “people finder” on the Disaster Management portal of the Uttarakhand government which initially had information about tracking rescued people, since army was involved in evacuation or search & rescue. Progressively the site kept being updated with more information and data being gathered and managed by the Uttarakhand government. When I saw a lot of people online volunteering to help with data collection and putting everything at one place and have their own versions of the same task which was already done by the government round the clock, I was just worried about this whole duplication of effort as something that was adding to the chaos. While I was traveling back to India and was in London, I just called the District Information Officer of Rudra Prayag, to check information and convey that some of the documents of rescued people that was being uploaded on their website were actually printed and scanned documents (some word documents but still printed and scanned and some hand written, both in English and Hindi – ref: Screenshot) are not easy to search and ask them if they can upload at least in some searchable format. That is when he informed me that although some of the documents being collected at district offices are scans, there is a separate team that is also translating (from Hindi to English) all the data and putting it online on their own DMS site in searchable format. Now on the same website, you see all the information being managed by any of the offices being put at one place. Like the website says: “This search module has been provided to track a person as per the information provided by concerned District Administration. The original list provided by District Administration has been re-entered/converted in English at State control room to facilitate its users.Kindly refer original list of District Administration to confirm the information provided through this website.” Ref: Screenshot here & Direct website link here.
The Sahana team is currently working on setting up custom deployments as per the requirements specific for the Bihar floods. Currently, we are working on Translating Sahana to Hindi, that could be used in the deployment. As you might have heard there are about 1-2 million people who have been affected by the Bihar disaster. A team in Kolkata (Calcutta) has just been initiated for the deployment effort.
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