Information Sharing Makes Cities Safer
Cities today are at the forefront of innovation with engaged leaders and citizens actively tackling society’s biggest challenges.
One of those challenges is information sharing during natural disaster.
According to the Red Cross’ World Disasters Report, information becomes as vital as food, water, and shelter during emergencies, and technology can be a powerful tool for getting it into the hands of those who need it when disaster strikes. Through partnerships and collaboration with others in the industry, Microsoft is focused on ways technology can rapidly enable info sharing among citizens, governments, and responders impacted by disaster.
Citizens Helping Citizens
Once people are safe usually the first thing they want to do is locate their loved ones and understand the details of what happened, whether there is additional danger ahead, and where to go for lifesaving resources. Many people around the world have mobile Internet-enabled devices with access to social networks, and these can be useful in getting help for themselves and their neighbors whether they are next door or on the other side of the world. An important evolution – on which Microsoft and others are focused – is to take the large amounts of data generated through social media during an emergency and curate it into an immediate and reliable source of actionable information for citizens and responders.
SF72.org is a great example of culling information and converting data into actionable preparedness and response. Created by the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, with input from local community members, the site offers current and relevant information on things like weather and maps, as well as community data feeds and emergency preparedness guidance.
Another organization we work with, Humanitarian Toolbox, has brought together the generosity of those who volunteer their technical skills at hackathons and the long term benefits of software development processes to rapidly build, maintain and deploy open source technical solutions for responders. To sustain these development efforts and to provide a home for solutions already developed, the open source projects are maintained in the cloud across multiple teams at both physical and virtual hackathons to engage volunteers regardless of their location or experience with open source projects. Each application and project – including the Crisis Check-in application currently in beta – is built from the requirements of one or more response organizations so that everyone engaged can know that their efforts are aligned with what responders need as they respond to future disasters.
Technology Helping Information Sharing
Without power and connectivity, the ability to effectively communicate across groups becomes extremely challenging at best. Therefore one of our focus areas is working with partners to bring connectivity to disaster-stricken areas in locations like evacuation shelters, as well as to outlying areas where people may be isolated and need help.
A recent example, during the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, we collaborated across the technology industry to deploy TV White Space radios to enable Internet connectivity for impacted citizens, and also played a key role in the deployment of three emergency.lu connectivity kits with Skype low bandwidth enabling communications for 5,000 humanitarian aid workers.
Click video above to learn about TV White Space.
Another recent and devastating event that took place April of 2013 was the Boston Marathon bombing in the U.S. To connect and provide a support system for survivors as they recover and rebuild, we collaborated with others to build what is known as the Yammer survivor network, which has been used not only to deal with the trauma of the Boston Marathon bombing, but to find healthcare providers, and keep in contact with people who shared the experience. Some of the injured – including those who lived far away – even used the group to organize trainings to run the marathon the following year.
Looking ahead at the future, technology will play an increasingly important role in our ability to connect people with lifesaving information and to make communities more resilient to disaster. Microsoft is working with responders and others across the tech industry to bring forward the principles of open data sharing and data visualization which will allow for real-time coordination of relief efforts making sure that scarce resources are distributed quickly and to the locations most in need.
Please watch this space for more news and information on these topics. To ask questions, share ideas, or receive more information, join the conversation on Twitter by following @MsftResponse or visit www.microsoft.com/disasterresponse
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
MaaS has a lot to offer to public transit and it’s time to take a closer look at those benefits. Contrary to a common misconception, integration of third-party transit services into the wider public mobility offering doesn’t hurt transit, it actually encourages wider use of public transit, maintaining and even actively increasing ridership. Alternative transit services can address first/last mile problems as well as serve routes that are typically very costly and require a high level of government subsidy (e.g. paratransit), not only increasing revenues for transit agencies but also helping to direct funding and investment back to core transit services.
From June 26th to 28th 2018, urban transport and development practitioners, activists, and researchers from cities around the world convened in Dar es Salaam for the 3rd annual ITDP Mobilize summit. Themed “Making space for mobility in booming cities,” the event...
It is no surprise to those of us in the walking advocacy world that making bus stops accessible and linked to neighborhood sidewalks can increase bus ridership and reduce the number of para-transit trips that are called for. This is a logical outcome of thinking about how people make real life choices about how to get around. What this research demonstrates is an amazing win-win-win for walking and transit advocates. It shows how we can shift trips from autos to transit; give more people more independence by making it possible for them to use regular bus service rather than setting up special, scheduled para-transit trips (some of which require appointments to be made at least 24 hours in advance and only for specified purposes); and save money for transit systems over the long run.