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New Report Highlights Digital Revolution in Disaster Response

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, November 1 2013

Hurricane Sandy (Wikipedia)

The World Disasters Report 2013, released earlier in October, evaluates the way technology can aid in disaster response. The report states that it is “essential—and inescapable” that humanitarian action adopt a more technological approach but it also warns humanitarian organizations not to rely too heavily on technology because it can exclude those without access to it.

The number of natural disasters in 2012 was the second lowest of the past decade, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), and the number of technological disasters, like industrial accidents, was the absolute lowest. The number of deaths caused by natural disasters was less than 10,000, which seems pretty good when compared to more than 297,000 deaths in 2010—most of which occurred as a result of the January earthquake in Haiti, which killed 222,570 people.

Patrick Vinck, an associate faculty at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Director of the Program for Vulnerable Populations and lead author on the 2013 report, told the BBC that “[although] the overall number of people affected by disasters decreased in 2012, the number of people affected in the poorest countries increased, with over 31.7 million people affected.”

"They are also often the ones with the least access to technology," he added.

Technology in humanitarian efforts has been a popular subject on techPresident for a while now, most recently in September when Patrick Meier's digital humanitarian project MicroMappers was used for the first time in the wake of an earthquake in Pakistan.

That same month we covered how Japan is using mapping technology to prepare for a disaster that could kill more than 300,000 people. Then again, researchers found that crisis mapping was of little use in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Japan.

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