Back in 2004, I was one course shy of graduating from my computer science degree and had started working. I was essentially an intern in a government project team. So, I had some gaps during the day. Up to that time, I had built only a few solutions, and they were mostly simple web tools.
Then, Hurricane Ivan hit, and I sat at my desk at work, thinking I feel I could build something. So, I set off to work and spent 3 days realizing I had no real clue what to do. I gave up.
Over the years, as various disasters hit the region, I got slightly better at development overall, and attempted to improve some of those tech interventions/recommendations. When a tree fell in my neighborhood, I found myself wondering when will state institutions publish RTOs, how can that information be managed and broadcast.
I jumped at the chance to work with satellite data for the first time, in a project focused on disaster risk management in the Caribbean. During a major storm in Trinidad, I modified a chatbot (Nurse Carter) to provide information about shelters. Going back to mapping, the Ministry of Works and Transport in Trinidad & Tobago were offering updates via social media about blocked roads. I created a live map based on same.
As I collaborate with Ropo Ogundipe to deliver what I think may be the region’s first hackathon focused on Disaster Mapping, I can see something looking like progress. As an organizer, I’m not building a solution to compete, but actually cheering on a bunch of engineers from Trinidad to Austria to Namibia, who, in the first instance will be focused on mapping data from The Bahamas over the next two days to come up with their own solutions.
In reflecting on my journey in developing disaster management solutions, I realize that progress doesn’t always happen in a linear or planned way. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts, learning from mistakes, and adapting to changing circumstances to make a real impact.
As I look to the future of disaster management, I am excited to see what new technologies and innovations will emerge and how they can be used to improve preparedness and response efforts. Whether it’s through hackathons like the one I’m organizing or through continued collaboration and learning, I believe that we can build a safer and more resilient world.