Innovating Resilience in Japan
This week, teams of software and hardware developers are gathering in the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Ishinomaki, and Nagoya to explore how technology can help communities better prepare for and respond to natural hazards like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.
The events coincide with the launch of the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management, and opening of a new Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Hub in the Tokyo Office of the World Bank. The program will leverage Japanese expertise to mainstream disaster risk management in development planning and investment programs. It will provide technical assistance and support pilot projects, knowledge and capacity building activities, and thematic initiatives focused on reducing vulnerability to natural hazards.
“Japan is prone to natural hazards like earthquakes and tsunamis, so we understand first-hand the importance of making communities more resilient to disasters,” said Taichi Furuhashi, lead local organizer for the Japan hackathons. “We are pleased to leverage the power of Japan’s civic hacker community to source innovative solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing our region.”
Hackathons in Action
GFDRR has supported cutting edge solutions from similar initiatives over the years, including Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), which helped St. Lucia develop and operationalize a visualization tool for complex landslide risk models called CHASM. World Bank-backed hackathons have led to innovations including a mobile phone game that teaches children good sanitation and hygiene practices; a text messaging-based tool that allows students, parents and teachers to relay concerns about local school facilities to a regional government or ministry of education; and an application that tracks the flow of development contracting funds into or out of a country.
For the new resilience hackathons, Code for Resilience has been collecting problem statements, identified by a range of partners, for the hackers to work on. These disaster resilience challenges range from the need for an early warning system to alert fisherman in coastal communities to impending storms to prevent loss of life at sea, to developing a rainfall prediction tool for farmers to help protect crops grown in flood-prone areas.
“Collaborative initiatives like Code for Resilience help us bring together disaster risk management experts and local developers to create innovative applications that enable communities to become more resilient to natural hazards,” said Francis Ghesquiere, head of the GFDRR Secretariat.
Code for Resilience, working with local partners, is organizing hackathons in cities across Asia, where high population density and rapid urbanization make communities particularly vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters. Cities hosting local events include: Bangalore, India; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Jakarta, Indonesia; Manila, the Philippines; and Peshawar, Pakistan.
Hackers who have identified prototype solutions that address the problem statement challenges will be invited to continue building, testing, and refining their tools through the Code for Resilience Online Innovation Challenge. This online continuation of the hackathon activities enables ongoing collaboration between developers, and provide access to expert mentoring support.
Grand prize winners of the Online Innovation Challenge will be invited to pitch their tools to an audience of some of the world’s leading disaster risk management experts at the Understanding Risk conference in London in July 2014.
Do you want to get involved? Visit Code for Resilience to contribute problem statements, browse or add to the app directory, and to sign up for local hackathon events. Follow the team on Twitter at @CodeForResilience.