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Collective action to address emergency planning

Damian Schogger finds out how the One Billion Coalition for Resilience is bringing together a broad range of organisations to tackle emergency and disaster responses around the globe.

In October 2016, the One Billion Coalition for Resilience (1BC) and Satellite Applications Catapult hosted a two-day workshop focused on identifying a vision and roadmap for making disaster preparedness, logistics and resilience data more usefully available to individuals, communities and organisations. This is part of a wider effort to enable organisations around the world to react efficiently and effectively to major emergencies, using all the tools at their disposal, including data.

Disaster rescue following landslide

According to the 1BC Global Team Leader, Benjamin Wielgosz, an important outcome of the event was identifying that “there are many emergency and disaster response applications, but each of them tends to be isolated from one another. This is because there is no incentive for a company or NGO to invest in a broader infrastructure. We want to allow people to get out of the silos that non-profits and tech start-ups are restricted by.”

With this in mind, the 1BC team is now looking to address this failure in the emergency response technology market.

“Through a coalition of many organisations, including the Satellite Applications Catapult, we’re trying to find collective-action solutions. We are now formulating a small grant programme where we can connect organisations to each other based around open-source technology. This will involve matchmaking around a sensible solution on both sides of a data exchange API. By achieving supply and demand for the data, it will ensure the business solutions are sustained once the initial investment is made,” explains Ben.

1BC also hopes that a ground-up approach will generate a critical mass of data infrastructure that connects the various success stories in disaster recovery apps.

“Part of this process is the ongoing discussions we’re having with most of the workshop attendees to maintain those relationships,” adds Ben. “We followed-up in Geneva in February 2017, as part of UN-OCHA’s Humanitarian Networks Partnership Week. We’re now preparing to connect the ‘Help Now’ app to the Red Cross operations centre through the IFRC Go Project Lab. We’re also working on formal data-sharing agreements between the Red Cross and Facebook’s Community Safety Check team, as well as with the Humanitarian Data Exchange in the Hague.”

Further bilateral meetings are planned in the coming months, so that as the grant facility is defined, 1BC and its stakeholders have a strong understanding of who they can start approaching for open source development and what shared solutions have the greatest chance of broad uptake.

“For the likes of Facebook, data partnership challenges can be about identifying partners that have appropriate data protection policies and infrastructure, rather than funding. But even for large UN agencies or NGOs, a complementary API funding approach can be a game-changer, justifying investment in data-sharing infrastructure rather than core platform functionality,” says Ben.