In the past few months, the world has witnessed increasing devastation caused by natural disasters, where victims are often forced to move to makeshift shelters, such as churches and auditoriums. But how can displaced residents find the nearest shelter; how can they know if space is still available? Additionally, residents often need to know which shelters are equipped to deal with certain medical conditions.
Attribution: Shutterstock.com. Creator: DIIMSA Researcher
Interviews with two such displaced families reveal a dire need for a mobile application that could have helped them get more up-to-date information. When the water level of the lake behind their house started rising, the families started looking for information on shelters and food services online. Following was their experience during the crisis:
- They were registered with a National Weather station which gave them alerts on the status of the hurricane.
- They visited a local government website for details about shelters, but they did not have up-to-date information regarding which shelters were closed and ones that were newly opened.
- They visited multiple websites for updates on a specific location. Often, informal updates were posted by residents, rather than government officials.
- Food services were offered by many volunteers. All communications were via intermittent, ad hoc social media or word of mouth.
Here’s a list of key requirements that need to be addressed in the solution:
- During a natural disaster, affected residents need a single, integrated portal to obtain basic information that will enable them to take advantage of available services.
- There should be no dependency on cash or cards to buy the services during the crisis. Virtual money, like mobile money, should be supported by a credit facility.
- The portal should be a secure environment where all parties are verified and accountable.
- The application should allow residents to publish their services.
- The system should be able to locate the nearest shelter and service provider.
- The portal should enable missing-person searches.
- The environment should be trusted and transparent, to prevent mismanagement of funds
- Up-to-date information on the availability of services should be provided in real-time to all parties.
- The system should support track-and-trace of residents and supplies.
- Based on the real-time resident tracking information, rescue operations can be initiated.
- The portal should be able to integrate existing ecosystems managed independently by service providers.
- Government authorities should have real-time information on demand to enable them to estimate the amount of funds to be released.
- Post-disaster, Government authorities should be able to use the data to reward or incentivize participants.
User scenarios (with conflicts) to be addressed:
- A service provider agrees to supply required material to a shelter and fails to do so after accepting the funds from the Government. But he claims to have used it for the expected set of activities as he has updated his enterprise solution/database with those details.
- A Government official claims to have released funds to service providers and residents (by adding money to their mobile wallets), but it has not reached the concerned parties.
- Government claims to have provided some credits to residents via their mobile wallets, but the residents have not received it.
- Medical service for an individual who requires expensive treatment, and which is unaffordable by the resident, becomes eligible for Government funds. This requires a trusted and transparent setup which helps the Government validate fund usage.
- A resident requested for a service which was accepted by the service provider. But the service provider never delivered the supplies, and claims to have not received such a request. It appears to be deleted or canceled on his system.
- Duration to settle payments from Government to service providers is time-consuming, since the list of settlements is long and needs to be verified.
A mobile / web application enables users to access services offered by multiple providers. For example, they can use mobile wallets provided by their telecom operator to make payments. To support this solution, critical features include:
- Automatically record location of registered users.
- Provide live weather updates – satellite pictures, level of danger.
- Provide an integration point for existing Emergency Management systems.
- Analytics to help early detection of missing people.
- Maps that…
- Show the count of users gathered in locations (mainly shelters). Also, support in plotting a specific registered user.
- Show location of services such as shelter, food, medical.
- Recommend best routes to shelters and service providers.
- Provide geo-fencing to protect citizens from crossing borders.
Internet of Things plays a key role in tracking and tracing residents and the supplies.
- Mobile or satellite phones can be used to track residents and transportation vehicles.
- RFID tags on cartons carrying food and medical supplies can help record receipt of supplies at shelters.
- Latest weather and traffic data information can be used to provide best routes to the nearest shelters or suppliers.
A Blockchain solution enables the key players/organizations during a disaster management to communicate effectively and act on time. It allows the organizations to use their existing eco system to facilitate a service and publish on this network. All transactions are recorded on the network.
- Blockchain provides a secure environment with its immutability feature where a record cannot be tampered with once created. This creates a trusted environment which supports accountability and governance thus addressing the above-mentioned user stories with conflicts.
- Blockchain uses a shared distributed ledger which ensures transactions and data reach all concerned parties as soon as they are created. This leads to early settlements.
List of participants in this network:
- Government (Disaster Management Department)
- Telecom companies
- Food suppliers
- Medical suppliers
- Medical Service Providers
Shelter, transportation truck, bus icons are from Icograms available under the Creative Commons license (Attribution 3.0 Unported)
Telecom tower icon is from First Styles available under the Creative Commons license (Attribution 3.0 Unported)
Medical supply vehicle icon is from Dave Gandy available under the SIL Open Font License
Food icon is from Simran Singh available under the license terms of Free for commercial use
Government building icon is from Maxim Basinski available under the license terms of Free for commercial use
Residents icon is from Everaldo Coelho available under LGPL
Doctor icon is from Creative Agency Bresign available under the license terms of Free for commercial use
Auditor icon is from Aha-Soft available under the license terms of Free for commercial use
Business Model (High Level):
Government leads the initiative in bringing key players into this network.
- Government creates the consortium and offers a commercial platform to sell their services.
- Government can support subsidising services and supplies.
- Government can give incentives and tax benefits to the organizations participating in this network.
- Government outsources the technical services to an IT company which provides the platform for this solution (Blockchain environment, mobile application, etc.)
- Government provides this solution as a service to its citizens for free with some basic application features (trace family, view of weather conditions, book shelters, purchase food, medical supplies and transportation, etc.). Some advanced features (trace friends, geo fencing, medical professional service, etc.), are provided for a fee.
- Residents buy the services on this network by using their mobile wallet. They can get the Government funds to be added directly to their mobile wallets in case of financial loss. Empowering residents to make the purchase reduces the burden of settlements between the Government and the service providers.
User scenarios: Disaster Management Solution – Part 2: User Scenarios
Call to Action:
You can model a blockchain network here – https://developer.ibm.com/blockchain/sandbox/