Digitally Transforming Natural Hazards Preparedness and ResponseBy José Otero | Thu, 11/18/2021 - 11:10
Technology and the internet have utterly transformed pretty much every aspect of our lives — an irrefutable fact considering that nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is already online. But digital transformation goes beyond gadgets, software or social media, nor is it limited to a digital ecosystem: it’s the way to improve how we communicate, how we acquire products and services, how we work and how we shape our lifestyles, as well as how we create a culture inside our communities and society. That, of course, includes how we face natural hazards, how we prevent disasters and how we manage their risks.
According to data shared by the World Economic Forum, insured losses from natural hazards reached $42 billion in the first half of 2021 while the overall economic losses have a 10-year average estimated at $93 billion.
These are not isolated events that only occur in certain regions, countries or specific seasons. These are disasters that can happen anywhere and anytime around the globe, in spite of development indexes or financial situations. In fact, just in 2020, there were a total of 416 disasters worldwide. In the span of the past 20 years, we are talking about over 8,000 events.
Moreover, in recent years, and as explained in a paper by the Secretariat to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the increase in the number of disasters is largely a result of the growth of both population and wealth, which puts more people and assets in harm's way.
Extreme weather, as well as storms that cause wildland fires or floods, have a direct connection to the impact of climate change and man-related activities. Being conscious of this is essential to stop its advance.
Nonetheless, it is also true that there are other natural phenomena we do not yet fully understand through science and that signify hazards almost impossible to slow down or predict, but against which we can also act to reduce their tragic and costly impact. That is the case of seismic events.
Although it’s true we cannot avoid natural hazards like earthquakes, we can practice and implement technology-based solutions to be safer when they happen, reduce their consequences and lethality, and improve our reaction protocols during a crisis and its aftermath.
As our society evolves, we need to be more prepared and adapt our infrastructure, but also the way in which we both educate and act in terms of prevention and response.
Preparedness along with disaster prevention is a matter of culture and creating awareness. And now, as we engineer and unfold a more and more digital world, technology is the perfect ally not only to encourage it but also to make prevention and disaster-risk management tools more accessible to a wider percentage of the world’s population.
Digital transformation in natural hazards preparedness and response taps into all the innovation potential that data offers: collection, analysis and visualization of open data make sense of all other technological efforts that we have implemented for decades now, like satellites, software and networks that could be boosted with artificial intelligence (AI), data processing and cloud computing.
But technology itself needs a correct path to properly permeate our lifestyles. Becoming a more resilient society and investing in risk management methods is not the exclusive responsibility of policymakers, politicians or official organizations; it’s a responsibility that needs to be taken and carried out by many stakeholders: private companies, associations, innovators and startups, as well as citizens and tech users, adopters and developers. Equally.
To pave the way to a new prevention culture, first it’s vital to solve the challenge of accessibility and focus on clear actions toward adopting and molding this culture in the core of our communities.
Fortunately, startups have triggered a new tech innovation and digitalization wave that adds precisely that needed cultural shift to the dynamic between tech and society.
In other words, applied sciences usage and preparedness against hazards are not exclusive to academia or governments; companies can directly invest in more direct response efforts, startups can develop more complex and serviceable networks and people can incorporate all of these in their day-to-day.
At SkyAlert we are convinced that by making more user-ready tech, we can decrease the number of injuries, fatalities, and infrastructure damage seen in the aftermath of an earthquake and other natural hazards. At the same time, the roadblocks scientists and innovators have encountered so far can be gradually set aside with a fresh new take on how to approach resources for finding solutions and carrying out research (and to put it into practice).
The digital transformation has made what we thought far-fetched just a few years ago a reality; it has opened our minds to new possibilities and solved challenges that seemed unsolvable.
The formula of technology and digital solutions that enable collaboration, conscious humanitarian aid and deployment of resilience efforts will result in better decision-making against disasters and, above all, will allow countless lives to be saved.