Ole Nielsen of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) poses a scenario: “An earthquake strikes and a ground shaking estimate is produced by the relevant geological agency.” How big is the problem going to be? How will it impact the population? How many lives might be lost? These are questions that need to be answered quickly and effectively. That is where Risk in a Box comes in.
Built using series of open source projects, Risk in a Box is a web based tool that utilizes these projects to help understand the risk that comes with natural disasters and the decisions that must be made in their wake. The project was born at Random Hacks of Kindness #2 in Jakarta as a partnership between AusAID, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the Indonesian Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB).
Most importantly, Risk in a Box has impact. It was put to use to help inform flood contingency planning in Jakarta. It has the ability to produce maps of roads that might be blocked, schools and hospitals that would close and an accurate spatial representation of the supplies required to support the population in a flooding emergency.
There is still work to be done. The main focus of the team now is to develop a front-end for QGis, an open source geographic information system. The need emerged as a result of real world trials of Risk in a Box.
The next step is an interesting and even more challenging one: socializing the value of this system so that the data is hosted by those who are accountable for it but is also shared publicly in a way that adheres to Risk in a Box data standards. For example, keeping flood data stored and maintained by an organization with hydrology expertise but with a strong incentive for making sure this data is open and shared with other organizations and communities.