Thursday, October 09, 2008

Helping people with ICT

Occasionally I get asked about the computer equivalent of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders): that is an organisation of ICT professional volinteers helping with disasters and in developing nations. Such organisation do exist, but it is not a matter of putting on a fancy uniform and handing out laptops to greatfull survivors with the news cameras looking on.

A few months ago I joined Engineers Without Borders Australia . They do small solar powered wireless Internet projects for villages and the like. EWB encourage engineering and ICT students to participate in challenge projects.

Computing Assistance Support & Education (CASE) provides ICT support for Australian non-profit organisations. It is run by Darrell Burkey at the ANU.

Ken Taylor from CSIRO helps students from Udayana University, in Indonesia with ICT projects . I arranged for ACS to fund them to adapt Sahana for Indonesia . Ken is keen for people in Australia to work with Indonesia.

Sahana is a Free and Open Source Disaster Management system run by a non-profit group based in Sri Lanka . I am on their project management committee, along with a few other Australians . I provided advice on how to get Sahana to work on low bandwidth hand held devices. Sahana provides a good model for how ICT people can help. Rather than rush off to a disaster zone, what is needed is for people to carefully engineer systems of long term value and which are ready to use in an emergency. Sahana participates in Google "Summer of Code" with volunteers doing projects .

Providing advice to others doing emergency and humanitiran systems can also be of assistance. Previously one of my ANU students, did a project on "Evaluating Emergency Management Websites".

More on disaster management specifically in my blog.

No comments: