Facebook collaborates with NDMA and SEEDS to offer ‘Disaster Maps’ in India
Facebook has partnered with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and a non-profit body, SEEDS in India, to offer tools to these agencies to help them respond more effectively to natural disasters.
The US-based firm will offer disaster maps data that illustrate aspects like peoples movement and concentration of Facebook users in the given area before and after a calamity.
Facebook Head of Programs (India, South and Central Asia) Ritesh Mehta said the intention of introducing these initiatives is to help improve response efforts to natural disasters in India.
“During and after these crises, response organisations need accurate information to help communities response, recover and rebuild,” he added.
Traditional communication channels are often offline and it can take significant time and resources to understand where help is desperately needed, he said.
He explained that in case there is an area which has a high concentration of Facebook users that suddenly goes offline, even that data insight can be used to rush services to the area.
Disaster Maps was introduced globally in June and uses aggregated location information that users have chosen to share with Facebook. These tools have been deployed in Peru and the US.
Chaya Nayak, Public Policy Research Manager at Facebook, said a lot of insights for developing the tools came from India. “We saw people using Facebook intensively during Chennai floods to connect and extend support to each other,” she added. Facebook already has a safety check feature that allows users to notify their friends and family that they are safe. Facebook is also holding its first annual Disaster Response Summit in India with NDMA, which will bring together many humanitarian organisations to help train and discuss how technology can be used to devise better responses to natural disasters and subsequent recovery.
The social networking giant is also supporting the pilot of the ASK-DIV (Aapda Samachar Karyakarta-Disaster Information Volunteers) scheme where a network of trained volunteers provide supplementary information to inform government relief efforts through the Facebook Workplace platform.
The programme, which is being executed by SEEDS, will establish a network of volunteers to provide real-time, first-hand information on disasters in their local communities. The programme will be piloted in two disaster prone states — Assam and Uttarakhand.