While I was reaching something to write about for the blog I found an interesting article on how information systems were used in the recovery of Haiti after the tsunami. This really grabbed my attention as I always associated information systems with business and how it could improve business decisions’, however, this article showed me how the trend of information systems has extended to outside the professional world.
During the crisis in Haiti, information systems were an integral part of the search and rescue process. At first, rescue teams referred to satellite maps in order to conduct their search, however, notifications of areas where people were reported missing or possible locations that should be explored were being transmitted through social media. Search and rescue teams were faced with massive amounts of information through social media and SMS messages. Information systems were used to manage the amount of data being received. The main 3 information systems used were; the UN inter-agency One Response website, the SAHANA free and open Source Disaster Management System, and Ushaidi.
One Response has been developed by the UN and Microsoft. The information system focuses on the “cluster approach”. The cluster approach helped in the search and rescue in Haiti as it allowed humanitarian workers see where the clusters of volunteers were and what they were doing.
SAHANA software foundation’s mission statement is “The Sahana Software Foundation is dedicated to the mission of saving lives by providing information management solutions that enable organizations and communities to better prepare for and respond to disasters.” In Haiti this information system mapped out all resources they had available, including volunteers, and also worked on mapping out what areas needed relief the most. Allowing users to see clearly how they could assist each individual area.
Ushaidi is an information system that was originally set up to register violence and peace efforts in Kenya in 2008 through reports submitted by SMS and via the website. In Haiti, users were able to submit eye-witness reports by using their website, sending a text message or by using social media. This allowed volunteers to recognise the areas that were worst hit by the tsunami and allowed people to share lists of missing people and areas where people may need to be rescued.