Information sharing post-Haiyan

The UN Foundation has released the report, Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies, downloadable from the agency’s website.


Ted Turner, for the report’s Foreword, says

The global response to the January 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti showed how connected individuals are becoming increasingly central to humanitarian emergency response and recovery. Haitians trapped under rubble used text messaging to send pleas for help. Concerned citizens worldwide engaged in a variety of ways, from sending in donations via SMS, to using shared networks to translate and map requests for assistance.

Powered by cloud-, crowd-, and SMS-based technologies, individuals can now engage in disaster response at an unprecedented level. Traditional relief organizations, volunteers, and affected communities alike can, when working together, provide, aggregate and analyze information that speeds, targets and improves humanitarian relief…

…hope is that this report will spur dialogue and action to harness the potential of evolving communications technologies to transform how the world responds to disaster…

The theme of the report resounds with the imperative to build back better post-Haiyan.  I’m thinking that while waiting for the approval of the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan, the humanitarian aid community on the ground (or, perhaps the Regional DRRMC) can (I prefer, should) start drawing up a framework and platform for information sharing and communication (knowledge management) among government, civil society, private sector, and international community.  Gaps in humanitarian aid coordination, whether within government or among the clusters, are a recurring problem area every time disaster strikes, resulting to among other things wastage (of effort and resources from unnecessary duplication), and which falls back on the absence of a common information sharing platform, readily accessible either remotely or on point.  Without one, I imagine volumes of data and information, launched by various entities, flying about in airspace like airplanes without aid from a control tower, with only one in a million ever reaching it’s destination and only by sheer chance.  Most often than not, by the time it does, the need or opportunity has passed and the data or information loses relevance or usefulness.

In designing a common platform, therefore, the basic and most important question, as posed by the report, is what framework will allow multiple communities—each with its own understanding of humanitarian work—to learn from each other, gradually build trust through collaboration on shared problems, and find ways to act in concert?

These tasks being the key elements of that framework:

Equally urgent as the need to do something right now in the affected areas is the need to bring internal order within.  Harmony in the external environment is the fruit of harmony from within.

Something to mull about while waiting.


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