Sahana Case Study

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Sahana FOSS Disaster Management Systemhttp://freshmeat.net/projects/sahana/ http://www.sourceforge.net/projects/sahana http://www.sahana.lk

name: Chamindra de Silva email: [email protected] R&D Manager, Virtusa (www.virtusa.com) Acting Director, Lanka Software Foundation (www.opensource.lk)

Table of Contents The Historic Trigger..............................................................................................................3 Why is the Response to Large Scale Disasters so Chaotic?..............................................3 The Need for Information and Information Technology in a Disaster..................................3 Introducing the Sahana Disaster Management System.........................................................4 Alignment to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)........................................................8 Humanitarian-FOSS Concept and Awards............................................................................9 The Sahana Core Team and Community.............................................................................10 Application of Sahana in Sri Lanka, Post-Asian Tsunami 2004.........................................10 Application of Sahana in Pakistan, Post-Asian Quake 2005...............................................12 Lessons Learned from the Asian Tsunami and Asian Quake ............................................12 Recognition of Sahana and Humanitarian-FOSS................................................................13 Sahana Phase II Status.........................................................................................................14 Sahana Websites and Documentation.................................................................................16 Sahana Future Plan .............................................................................................................16 Other References:................................................................................................................18

The Historic TriggerThe Tsunami that hit Sri Lanka on December 26th resulted in a massive outpouring of support for the relief of the nearly one million people that have been affected by it. When literally thousands of people from every conceivable multilateral organization, civil society and from many other places arrived here to help, it became clear immediately that without information technology it would be impossible to coordinate their efforts to maximize the impact on the affected people. Thus the Sahana project was born. Despite the tremendous value this type of software can bring to disaster management, there are only very few systems that exist today and none of them are widely deployed. In fact, the most widely used system appears to be non-Web based and using completely out-dated technology. While there are indeed various specialized parts that exist, there does not exist a single cohesive system that organizations such as United Nations Disaster Assistance and Coordination (UNDAC) deploys at every disaster situation they go to. Thus the Sahana Free and Open Source (FOSS) Disaster Management System was born, built amidst the chaos by volunteers of I.T engineers predominantly from the Sri Lankan IT industry and was officially used to track families and relief organizations during after the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. Today Sahana continues to be enhanced by a global community of 60+ contributors with the objective of globalizing the solution and suite of applications to handle any type of large scale disaster.

Why is the Response to Large Scale Disasters so Chaotic?The distinction to be made in the recent 2004-2005 natural disasters such as the Tsunami, Asian Quake or Hurricane Katrina, is the massive scale of devastation. We are often talking about over a million people being affected within very short span of time. Additionally these are disasters that wipe out transport, communications and local emergency management infrastructure (like the police, hospitals or fire brigades). Even the richest nations are thus surprising left in a similar state of chaos as their poor counterparts who had very little of the emergency management infrastructure in the first place. Irrespective, even if this infrastructure was left intact, the scale can still greatly overwhelm the local resources available to handle those emergencies. Thus the response needs to be quickly supplemented with foreign/local donations, support of the civil society and often the victims themselves (as the first-responders in helping each other) to stand a chance of handling the scale of the situation. All these groups and individuals need to be empowered and need to coordinate complementary to each other in order to be effective. This is where the problem lies. Though often the support can be quite forth coming there is a lot of chaos in coordinating all groups to operate as one and tracking all the victims needs in responding to the disaster. As a result you have a wastage of pledged support, imbalances in aid distribution and a lack of proper coverage of support and services.

The Need for Information and Information Technology in a DisasterTo the person who does not have much experience with Disaster Management the IT requirements might seem like the last thing you attend to when a disaster happens. Doesn't medical aid, food and shelter come first? To analyze this lets first take the T out of IT and talk just about information. Getting the right information in these scenarios is critical to alleviating human suffering and saving lives. Think about

the mother wailing and desperately searching until she finds the where abouts of her missing child; think about orphaned children traumatized waiting for a familiar face of their extended family to find them; think about the people starving and needing aid because their whereabouts have got lost in the chaos; think about camps waiting for the right medical supplies to treat the people within; think about the relief coordinators who have to make guesses as to where the limited relief goes and in what quantity. The unseen devil in these situations is in the scale of operation and in being able to account for each an every individual equally from their medical needs to reunification with family to their relief supply, which amounts to a whole lot of data. That is where information technology helps manage information. Through IT the right data can be shared and accessed instantaneously by gov offices, field operatives, the civil society, victims acquaintances and the victims themselves to enhance the relief effort. Ironically the government especially in developed nations often have in-house solutions that could handle certain aspects of the disaster management, such as tracking people. Unfortunately those systems and the data they contain are often protected and by policy cannot be shared with external groups such as NGOs or any ol' volunteer who wants to help, thus it ceases to be the consolidated solution for everyone. Additionally the government owned, command and control procedures and systems in such an instance can sometimes get in the way (due to the lack of resources on the ground) and it can prevent independent relief groups and volunteers from directly and immediately helping the victims. Yet at the same time everyone needs to be coordinated well and information needs to be shared to allow all relief entities to operate as one, such that the aid and services can be distributed effectively. This is where a centralized collaboration portal for all relief groups (including the government) provides a lot of value. And that is where information technology plays an important role, in the ability to manage the scale of information and to improve accessibility to that information to all groups. Ultimately we want to make sure every man, women and child is being accounted for and the relief to everyone is swift and timely. And for all I know during the Tsunami and Pakistan quake no complete solutions were put available to address a lot of these coordination problems.

Introducing the Sahana Disaster Management SystemSahana is a suite a web based applications that provides that address different problems with regard to the information required for managing certain coordination problems during post-disaster.

Problem 1: Helping Families and Next of Kin Find Each OtherThe objective here is to reduce the trauma caused by waiting to be found and to help connect families and acquaintances quickly in order for them to support each other. The trauma damage is especially acute for children waiting for loved ones to find them. For example in Sri Lanka there were 100s of bulletin boards with pictures of missing people being pinned on them. Physically reviews say about 100,000s of such pictures to find someone is going to take quite a while. Here IT can help with an on line bulletin board where you can search by name, appearance, age group. Even if the victims or families do not have access themselves it is quite easy for any authorized NGO/civil society group to hook up to the central portal and provide that service in the areas they are operating in.

Solution 1: Sahana Missing Person Registry The Missing person registry is an online bulletin board of missing and found people. It not only captures information about the people missing and found, but the information of the person seeking them is also captured, which adds to the chances of people finding each other. For example if two members of the a family unit is looking for the head of the family, we can use this data at least to connect those two family members.

Features include:

Meta data around the individual such identity numbers, visual appearance, last seen location, status, etc Sounds-like name search (using metafore and soundex algorithms) Uploading of a persons picture G