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Delilah H.A. Al Khudhairy B.Sc (Eng), PhD from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre delivered this keynote at VALgEO 2011, held from 18 - 19 October 2011. Daniel Stauffacher, Chairman of the ICT4Peace Foundation was also present and spoke on "The Role Of Validation In Information And Communication Technologies (Ict) For Crisis Management".


Good Morning Dear friends and colleagues,

I see several familiar faces and several new ones too.

Welcome to the 3rd Valgeo workshop on Validation of geo-information products for crisis management’.

One of our initial aims of the first workshop was to create a community of interested organisations in sharing know-how, best-practices and needs in order to help to:

  1. Improve the process of validation of information products derived not only from remotely sensed data but also from other sources.
  2. Facilitate the exchange of developments and other initiatives addressing validation of crisis relevant information
  3. Facilitate the exchange of needs between practitioners and the scientific research community

Validation of geo-information has several dimensions including relevance, reliability, and quality, which in turn address issues such as readability and usability of crisis relevant information.

At Valgeo, whilst we endeavor to cover all aspects, we have focused until now on the Quality dimension.

Why is it important to discuss Validation in crisis management in settings like the Valgeo workshop?

Well it is important because of the proliferation in the methods that are used by all sorts of actors for deriving, visualising, mapping, sharing and distributing information relevant to crisis management particularly during the preparedness and response phases. This is evident in:

  • the growing use of ICT to support interventions in the field
  • the accepted use of remote sensing derived emergency support products
  • the use of Web-based platforms to support information sharing and collaborative initiatives
  • the availability and use of crowd sourced and volunteered geo information in certain types of crises

The use of ICT in the field, through for example, the combined use of web-based platforms and mobile devices, implies that we are able to quickly and in NRT transmit geo-located photos, videos, data communications and text reports from the field to situation centres, to voluntary initiatives, and to also share between actors in the field. How do we build Validation in these developments, where time is an issue, so that their added-value of NRT field-based situational awareness can be taken up by practitioners, bearing in mind that information collected or volunteered will in the future no longer be expected or necessarily be only provided by practitioners in the field but they can also be potentially provided by ordinary citizens or even as we have seem in some disasters like Haiti non-expert or experts distributed around the world? We will hear several examples during the workshop on research and applications on these issues.

Remote sensing derived products are routinely used today in support to emergency preparedness and response. Routine validation is essential to ensure that data, methods and processes used are regularly reviewed and improved to assure delivery of usable, reliable and relevant information. During the workshop we will hear about experiences on the validation process established and used within the framework of activities such as the GMES SAFER project and others. My colleague, Torsten Redlinger, from the GMES Bureau may also touch upon this point. The question here is not so much do we have to have a harmonized validation process, but rather how do we regularly share know-how and best practices and build validation in our work flow to ensure that the beneficiary at the end of the day is the user of crisis relevant information.

Timeliness is essential in the emergency phase of any crisis. Today, in the civilian domain, for a number of reasons, there is limited improvement we can expect from satellite-derived information in terms of providing a situational awareness at time intervals more frequent than 24 hours on a daily basis over the same hot spot. Therefore, there is an expected strong interest in understanding the added value of the use of practitioner sensing and community sensing to address the information gaps and to complement satellite-derived situational awareness through providing NRT or RT field or on the-spot based situational awareness. Some initial validation work is already underway in initiatives such as Ushahidi. How much can this initial work be accommodated to address scenarios beyond the ones it was designed for? If we need to design a new validation process that can accommodate practitioner and community sensor information, what factors do we need to consider, bearing in mind that practitioner sensing is controlled up to a certain point, whereas community sensing is voluntary?

Natural Disasters, conflicts and other types of disasters are not reducing. In 2010, the global impact of natural disasters took a turn for the worse with an increase in fatalities and economic damage. There were 385 NDs worldwide that killed more than 297,000 people, affected over 217 million others and caused about $ 124 billion in economic damages (ref. Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2010).

The total number of disaster events is trending up: The first half of 2011 has already produced more events than most years before 2006. This increasing trend will ofcourse add a strain on practitioners engaged in emergency preparedness and response who have to save lives and improve the well being of survivors, particularly those practitioners who have a mandate to act in disasters and crises inside and outside the EU or widely outside the EU. They need information and tools that they can easily integrate in their work process and that will help them to respond faster. Therefore, we have two enormous challenges ahead of us:

  • Building and maintaining validation as a regular feature in traditional satellite-based information products.
  • Better understanding the challenges, the needs and design for validation of new sources of information coming from the field and other sources and originating from different types of actors (namely practitioner versus community sensing), and how best to utilize them in complement to traditional geo-information products.

In the validation process, especially with increasing use of non-traditional novel sources of information, trust will remain the largest challenge. What we wish to avoid, particularly for the practitioner, is to have more information at the expense of having less relevant and less trustworthy information.

These are the sort of challenges the Valgeo community can and should address so that we can make progress together on identifying follow-up actions and recommendations that can help to lead to benefits for the emergency response and post-disaster recovery communities as well as help those communities to uptake and mainstream technological advances in information with a practical form pf validation playing an integral part.

A warm Welcome once again to you my friends and colleagues and I look forward to a productive two days workshop.

I shall hand you over to Martino Pesaresi and leave you in his good pair for hands as the chair of the workshop.

Thank you.