Ideathon: Code for Resilience mixes tech and disaster risk experts to spark innovation
By Keiko Saito

Thursday, 19 March 2015


The first people to arrive at the scene of any natural disaster are almost always members of the affected community. Yet in most cases, disaster response and recovery mechanisms are built from the top down, with tools and processes built by and for government and other institutional actors. Code for Resilience — a global initiative managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) — focuses on strengthening community resilience to natural disasters and is helping bridge this divide by connecting disaster risk management experts with local technology communities. To share their experiences, a number of Code for Resilience participants from across Asia gathered at the Asia Resilience Forum 2015, organized as part of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction and Recovery’s Public Forum, in Sendai, Japan. They discussed how they are engaging with disaster risk management authorities and developing community-led technology solutions to address local challenges in countries including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Advances in technology — including rising communications access, falling hardware costs, and a growing movement toward open data, open source, and open innovation — have created a new opportunity to engage local communities in creating a feedback loop that informs data about disaster preparedness, response and recovery. For communities, this means greater access to information to make informed decisions that strengthen community resilience. For governments and other institutional responders, this means an increased awareness of disaster preparedness and response needs and new opportunities to decentralize time- and labor-intensive information collection, management and analysis. Community-based resilience has been an important topic for GFDRR since its inception in 2007. In the recent years, advances in technology have made it simpler to generate scientifically rigorous data on natural hazards, including exposure and vulnerability information, even at the local community level. In Japan for instance, every household has received a hazard map developed by the local authority of their local area. One can imagine a digital corollary created for at-risk communities in low- and middle-income countries that uses text and voice messaging through mobile technology to complement existing analog strategies. Code for Resilience created a sandbox for these kinds of innovations in 2014 through 11 events held in eight countries, organized in partnership with national and local disaster risk management agencies, national open innovation movements, private sector and university partners. These events engaged more than 1,000 technologists to address more than 70 disaster risk management problem statements. These included:

The Code for Resilience initiative, now in its second year, seeks to build a sustainable community around using technology and open innovation to build, test, adapt and implement solutions to address these and other challenges. In the process, it also seeks to develop new and stronger relationships between technology and disaster risk management communities. This includes introducing new innovations. At the Asia Resilience Forum on March 14-15, and in Tokyo on March 16, Code for Resilience partnered in a technical workshop on the use of geospatial data from the Hodoyoshi microsatellite, which was recently developed and launched by the Engineering Department of the University of Tokyo. This will open up opportunities for communities to incorporate this new dataset into their solutions, helping them to become more resilient and make better decisions in preparing for disasters.

Keiko Saito is a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Specialist with the GFDRR Labs team. She specializes in the application of geospatial data for disaster risk management. She brings with her more than 10 years of experience in this field. Her interest is in bringing in the geospatial dimension into disaster risk management for all stages of the disaster cycle, from preparedness through to recovery and reconstruction. Inspired by the hackathons she has been helping organize this year in more than 10 cities around the world, she hopes to make an impact at the community level to reduce the risk from disasters, by generating innovative, community based disaster preparedness measures that also eventually feedback into policy levels. Prior to joining the Bank, she was a Director at Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd working in a multidisciplinary risk management and assessment team, a Willis Research Fellow and a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge. She has a long track record on post-disaster damage assessments using remote sensing starting in 2001 with the Gujarat (India) earthquake, Molise (Italy) earthquake (2002), Bam (Iran) earthquake (2003), Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami (2004), Kashmir (Pakistan) earthquake (2005), Wenchuan earthquake (2008), Haiti earthquake (2010), Pakistan floods (2010), the Great Eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami (2011), Nigeria floods (2012), Limpopo (Mozambique) flood (2012). A native of Japan, she has an M.Phil (Geography) and a PhD on the use of remotely sensed data for post-earthquake damage assessment both from the University of Cambridge, UK.