Harnessing Technology to Enhance Disaster Mitigation

By Liza Mantilla, PADF Director of Disaster Management

Technology has become a part of our everyday lives. And in my line of work—disaster management—technology is increasingly proving to be a highly useful and effective tool.

I recently traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, to participate in a discussion about how new mapping technologies can benefit decision-making and government policy. More specifically, the event, co-sponsored by the Government of Taiwan, International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF), and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), focused on using geographical information systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) techniques in decision making and the development of government policy. But how exactly can GIS/RS technology be beneficial?

GIS is a computer-based tool that allows you to map and analyze events on earth, while managing statistics like populations, economic development, and vegetation types in ways not possible with traditional spreadsheets. RS blends art and science by using sensors on airplanes and satellites to remotely collect data, process it into a digital image, and then integrate it within GIS. Together, GIS/RS offers valuable insight to explaining events, predicting outcomes, and planning strategies. For example, by collaborating with Taiwan and tapping into their extensive technical knowledge and know-how, Nicaragua has been able to conduct emergency monitoring on lake flooding, and coordinate emergency response during the 2010 floods that affected Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. GIS/RS technology has also been used for coral reef monitoring and mapping in order to understand the impact of tourist development to coral reefs.

The seminar is part of the ROC-Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs-funded project Capability Enhancement in Using Geographic Information System in Central America-Nicaragua, which seeks to assist the GoN in improving its capacity to perform environmental monitoring operations. Among them was Louis Alexander, PADF Senior Programs Director, who underscored the critical role of businesses in disaster risk reduction, which has increased and is changing the profile of humanitarian assistance globally.  He added that it is critical that the private and public sectors work collaboratively, co-investing in disaster risk reduction activities. This will help reduce the loss of life and property and further spur economic growth and development in more sustainable ways.

The seminar provided a platform to help raise awareness of bilateral and multilateral relations in the Central America and Caribbean region, providing an opportunity for experts to share experiences and exchange ideas that can pave the way for future development, and how to spur new cooperation in Central America.