Thursday, February 7, 2013

Online tools 'decentralising disaster relief efforts'

Eva Aguilar in Disaster response and relief efforts are becoming more dynamic and decentralised with the development of web-based geospatial technologies, says a study. Researchers writing in Disasters evaluated the experiences of Harvard University's Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) during the Sichuan and Haiti earthquake responses in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

They found that the conventional 'top-down' method of establishing emergency centres in damaged areas — usually managed by governments or relief agencies, to provide geographic data to decision-makers on the ground — has evolved into a more "dynamic" and "decentralised" disaster response due to the recent development of web-based geospatial technologies.

Such techniques started to emerge as early as 2004, in the response to the earthquake that struck Chuetsu in Japan, they say.

But it was not until the Haiti disaster that the "much broader potential" of web-based geospatial information, such as maps and images produced by crowd-sourcing responders, was revealed as a tool to allow cooperation between those inside and outside affected areas, they add.

"The technology, and also the public awareness of it, matured at that point," Wendy Guan, one of the authors of the study, tells SciDev.Net....

Earthquake damage in Haiti in 2010, shot by UN Photo/Logan Abassi United Nations Development Programme, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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