THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Giving a shot in the arm to disaster and emergency preparedness, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has entered into an understanding with social media giant Facebook for leveraging the use of crowdsourcing in times of crisis. It is learned that Facebook, while making the SDMA a partner of its Data for Good tool, also trained scores of volunteers across the state in reporting and sharing information in times of crisis.
“Facebook has agreed to provide us access to their tool Data for Good, an initiative developed by them to help humanitarian organisations in addressing the critical gaps in information they often face when responding to natural disasters,” said Sekhar L Kuriakose, member secretary, KSDMA.
According to him, as information from the grassroots level is critical for the government agencies in times of crisis, partnering with Facebook and access to its Data for Good tool will be a game-changing one.
“One of the major components of the tool is Disaster Maps. It not only shares real-time information with response teams, but also helps them determine whether the affected needs to be evacuated or what services and supplies they need most,” said an officer with SDMA.
According to the officer, though Facebook provides options like Safety Check, a feature that allows users in an affected area to notify family and friends that they are safe by marking themselves ‘Safe’ on their profile and ‘Community Help’, that allows users to crowdsource help during a disaster, Disaster Maps will help generate information within 24 hours of a natural disaster, thereby allowing agencies to respond to changing circumstances in evacuations, connectivity, or supply needs.
At the same time, Sekhar said that though SDMA had held initial discussions with US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for setting up a crowdsourcing platform in the state, it didn’t materialise as the latter allegedly put the same on the back burner.
Meanwhile, as per sources, with the very aim to bolster emergency preparedness and response, the state has expressed its willingness to collaborate with international institutions and agencies. At the institutional level, it is Harvard University, University of Sussex, Bristol University, National University of Singapore and others that expressed their willingness to cooperate with Kerala. The US Consulate, Geological Society of America and others are also associating with the state when it comes to research activities related to disaster and emergency preparedness.
“The study on the impact of the 2018 flood on the health and livelihoods of people in the state conducted by François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University (Harvard FXB) is progressing. Bristol University and the National University of Singapore have also approached us via UN Environment Programme to carry out research studies on floods and its impact,” added Sekhar.