GEO: Mobile App To Improve Decision-making in Humanitarian Response

Source: Tue, 16 Oct 2012 01:03 PM
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A new app for smartphones and tablet computers will improve access to information and analysis about crisis impact. The GEO (Global Emergency Overview) mobile app, designed jointly by ACAPS and Internews, will contribute toward creating shared situation awareness at the early stage of a disaster.

GEO was launched at the Crisis Mappers Conference in Washington on October 12th, 2012. Development of the app began in early 2011 when ACAPS and Internews’ Humanitarian Information Projects were announced as winners of the first Mobile App Competition organised by the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning for Internews’ teams and projects around the world.

GEO provides an easily accessible, updated snapshot of natural disasters and complex emergencies at a global level. This overview is combined with a more in-depth analysis provided through the Disaster Needs Analyses. The GEO provides a more agile manner in which to share the analysis and receive feedback from responders in the field. GEO consists of a web-interface as well as apps for mobile telephones and tablet computers on both iOS and Android platforms.

What is GEO

The Global Emergency Overview (GEO) mobile application is designed to improve access for emergency relief workers to up-to-date information and analysis on crisis impact, needs and response gaps, and to create shared situation awareness at the early stage of a disaster. This will eventually improve the effectiveness of humanitarian operations, including addressing the information and communication needs of disaster-affected communities.

The Challenge

Assessment of needs in sudden onset disasters and protracted crisis is a well-known challenge for the humanitarian community. The lack of a strong evidence base on the impact of disasters, on the needs of affected communities, and clear, detailed and up-to-date analysis of background information about the affected area(s) makes it difficult for humanitarian actors to develop a shared situation awareness. This hampers effective decision-making. GEO was created to address this issue.

The Idea

GEO provides an easily accessible, updated snapshot of natural disasters and complex emergencies at a global level. This overview is combined with a more in-depth analysis, including sectoral analysis through the Disaster Needs Analyses (DNAs), which ACAPS has been producing since mid-2010. Until the launch of GEO, the DNAs were shared in PDF format. GEO provides a more agile manner in which to share the analysis and, equally important, receive feedback from responders in the field. This will enhance humanitarian needs assessments and contribute towards a stronger evidence base for decision-making.

How GEO Works

GEO allows responders to download information from existing DNAs directly onto their mobile devices as soon as a disaster hits or as quickly as DNAs are produced thereafter. In the first two days after a crisis, the DNAs offer first responders critical background information on the country, hazard and sector-specific profiles, the impact and lessons of past disasters, and details of the demographics, livelihoods, vulnerabilities, communication channels, and coping mechanisms of affected populations. It also offers links to a selection of key documents and scenarios on the potential evolution of the crisis and identification of information gaps and needs, all of which can be used to immediately inform humanitarian responses and assessment planning.

As more specific information about the disaster is available after the first 24-72 hours and thereafter, GEO users can provide feedback through their mobile devices in real time.

As feedback is received, the analysis of the crisis will be updated as quickly as possible, and the revised analysis will be issued through the app, including an updated breakdown of the location and needs of affected populations and the main findings of all field visit reports shared by humanitarian actors and GEO app users. The report will continue to be updated regularly based on new information, comments, feedback, and suggestions received by actors on the ground.

After the second week, once normal coordination channels are operational in the field, the reports will stop in order to avoid duplication of regular coordination efforts. At this stage, a notification will be sent to the users saying that no more reports will be issued.

How GEO Started

Development of the app began in early 2011 when ACAPS and Internews’ Humanitarian Information Projects were announced as winners of the first Mobile App Competition organised by the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning for Internews’ teams and projects around the world. The competition challenged Internews staff to work with their partner organisations and propose innovative ideas for a mobile app that would improve communication flows and access to and exchange of information.   

About ACAPS

ACAPS is an initiative of a consortium of three NGOs (Norwegian Refugee Council, HelpAge International and Merlin) dedicated to improving the assessment of needs in complex emergencies, sudden onset disasters and protracted crises. ACAPS works with a number of humanitarian actors, including the InterAgency Standing Committee (IASC) Needs Assessment Task Force. Learn more about ACAPS, and follow them on Twitter @ACAPSproject and Facebook.

About the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning

The Internews Center for Innovation & Learning experiments with, captures and shares innovative approaches to communication from around the world. The Center has committed to capturing the technological discoveries of field offices to enrich the knowledge base of the international development community as a whole. Learn more about the Center for Innovation & Learning, and follow the Center on Twitter @info_innovation.

About Internews and Humanitarian Information

Internews and Internews Europe share an objective to save lives and reduce suffering of disaster-affected communities. Working in partnership with local media and aid providers, Internews and Internews Europe aim to fulfill people's right to access information, ask questions, and participate in their own relief and recovery. Learn more about Internews' Humanitarian Information Projects online and download When Information Saves Lives, the 2011 Annual Report of Internews’ Humanitarian Information Projects. Follow Internews’ humanitarian work also on Twitter @internews @internewseurope and @jqg.  

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The CDAC Network is a growing platform of more than 30 humanitarian, media development, social innovation, technology, and telecommunication organisations, dedicated to saving lives and making aid more effective through communication, information exchange and community engagement.

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