By Ian Roxborough
The message from three distinguished speakers from the U.S. Government was “the people are the solution.” The 8th annual Tides Tech Demo at Fort McNair hosted a panel featuring Ms. Heather King, Director for Preparedness Policy at the White House National Security Council, Jim Craft, CIO of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, and the Hon. Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment. Each talked about ways in which the government could help stimulate technological innovation and preparedness for disasters.
Assistant Secretary McGinn pointed out that there are already people on the ground before the first responders arrive; the issue is whether they are part of the solution or simply victims. The panelists agreed that the best way for government to help the immediate responders – the people experiencing the disaster – was for everyone to take responsibility for building resilience at both the community and the national level. Preparing now for local hazards, building up the right kind of databases, beginning exercises and finding ways to link everyone together was the message. Obvious in principle, but not so easy to do in practice.
Heather King talked about what the government was doing right now to build the right kind of knowledge base and prepare for disasters. She talked about how the government sponsors White House Innovation Fellows; how it supports various ways of sharing innovations...
By Ian Roxborough
We are great at collecting data: we now have all sorts of sensors feeding us huge volumes of data. The problem comes in analyzing the data and in making decisions based on that data. We need to focus now on making sense of the data. One of the panels at the 8th annual TIDES tech demo addressed this question. According to John Crowley of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the World Bank, we have a broken analysis process. We aren’t good at making the best use of the data that we have. This impacts decision-making: we don’t have good triggers that tell us how to act.
Part of the solution lies in more data. We need much more micro-level data so that we can start building risk and impact models that will tell us what is likely to happen at the local level: how many schools will flood, which ones, when? Street mapping and crowdsourcing are ways to make this happen. According to John Crowley, there are already 1.7 million open street mappers at work around the world. We also need to integrate the various different kinds of datasets so that they are all available in one place. Governments need to have not just lists of hospitals, but also GPS locations for each of them. We need a building-by-building picture, and the technology to do this is coming on stream.
In conjunction with improving the quality and relevance of data, we need to work on ways that will enable local responders to prepare for disasters. Part of that is making sure...