11 October 2011
Daniel Stauffacher, former Ambassador of Switzerland to the United Nations and Co-Founder and Chairman of the ICT4Peace Foundation writes for the UN Chronicle on Crisis Information Management. He notes that,
…It is now a given that ICTs are front and centre in relief and aid work, irrespective of the nature of the disaster and where it occurs. Several significant challenges remain. Issues of sustainability, clear relationships with the United Nations, Governments, the role of crisis mapping in complex political emergencies, ownership and use of data, data architecture, and stakeholder management are some of these. The variance in the response—some disasters are seemingly more telegenic than others—is another challenge. Currently, for example, the Horn of Africa famine and the associated crises gravely affecting millions of people has not animated the crisis-mapping community and its online platforms to the extent of post-Haiti or, more recently, following the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Unfortunately, there are still “silent disasters” for which ICT can be used, but are often not to the extent possible or desirable.
Today, the CiMs process is well recognized within the UN system, and has moved from championing the use of ICT in relief work to championing a more robust framework for their adoption and use. Senior leadership in many agencies are embracing social networking and web-based tools, but this is still haphazard, with little or no organizational vision. Interoperability is still an issue—data created in some platforms, no matter how good they are, are still difficult to export and use in other systems. Financial and knowledge resources to train information management workers, especially at the field level, remain scarce. The Foundation’s engagement with UN agencies over the years on CIM suggests, enduring challenges over data sharing between the crisis mapping community, which is itself fractured, and United Nations agencies.
With ICT constantly evolving, the UN system needs to remain agile and aware of how these technologies can help prevent, mitigate, and respond to crises. The UN system is the international community’s “long-tail”—present in disaster areas long after global media attention and the swarm of NGOs have moved on. It is vital, therefore, to support the CiMS process as a means through which, in the future, the UN system can respond more efficiently and effectively to the plethora of challenges that beset us.
Read the article in full here.