In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Administration started the Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative to identify, develop and deploy technology based tools to support first responders, survivors, local, state and Federal officials. These efforts have included hosting an all-day “Data Jam/Think Tank” at the White House, working with leading tech startups to identify innovative ways their platforms could be leveraged during a disaster and hiring two Presidential Innovation Fellows to build crowdsourcing applications. Applications created by the Presidential Innovation Fellow include Lantern, a mobile app designed to allow survivors to report and access information on power outages, fallen power lines, and the status of gas stations; and “GeoQ”, a tool that crowd-sources geo-tagged photos of disaster-affected areas to help experts assess damage over large regions.
Earlier this week, the President arrived in the Philippines, a country that has been deeply impacted by recent natural disasters. On May 5th and 6th, the U.S Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development will build on efforts to utilize innovation for disaster response and recovery efforts internationally by hosting a Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Building TechCamp in the Philippines. Local civil society groups and technologists will roll up their sleeves and join forces to create innovative, low-cost tech-solutions to natural disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan and the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Philippines. With support from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the UN World Food Programme, Globe Labs, Open Data Philippines and other partners, these low-cost, easy-to-use technological tools and concepts will help encourage communities to focus on prevention, preparation and resilience.
TechCamp Philippines aims to provide a venue for sharing knowledge regarding Disaster Risk Reduction and Response efforts, and to identify practical actions for collaboration and partnerships. Technologists will discuss topics such as leveraging open data, crowdfunding, and interactive gaming. In addition, these experts will address ways to effectively engage citizens through social media to solve detailed challenges in tracking relief and aid contributions in a transparent and systematic manner, disseminate early warning information for multiple hazards, and conduct damage and needs assessment.
The TechCamp will be followed by two hackathons, where technologists will work in teams to build practical applications based on the innovative projects/concepts that emerge from the TechCamp. We look forward to collaborating with our partners in the Philippines on these innovative events.
To date, the U.S. Department of State has hosted more than 30 TechCamps around the globe on topics including: Open Government, Human Trafficking, Environment, Women’s/Youth Empowerment, Social Inclusion, Environment, Education, Crime and Security, and Disaster Response; and has trained more than 2000 organizations (civil society organizations, journalists and governments) from more than 100 countries to use tech-based tools to help them become more effective in accomplishing their goals.
Brian Forde is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Jamie Findlater is New Media Advisor, Office of eDiplomacy, Department of State
Pritam Kabe is Technology Analyst, Office of eDiplomacy, Department of State