While the world was grappling with the massive earthquake that ravaged Nepal on 25th April, the recent cascade of aftershocks & tremors have made the situation inconsolable. With more than 8000 dead and thousands more injured after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, it is definitely Nepal’s worst natural disaster in decades.

earthquake, nepal

The new tremors will surely stretch relief efforts with aggravated need for rehabilitation, water, food and medical supplies. There are some awesome folks on the field who are doing great work in providing relief and comfort to the distraught. Technological interventions in relief efforts are also picking up pace, be it the U.S Geological Survey’s summary of the seismic situation, the live updates on Twitter or the most recent and awe inducing role played by NASA in locating 4 trapped earthquake victims by detecting their heartbeatsGoogle & Facebook are also leveraging their user base to allow people to connect with friends & family who may have been in Nepal at the time. Tech and telecom companies are stepping up to offer much needed services. From Apple to Viber, each has something a little bit different to offer.

As someone rightly said, the key here is to not duplicate efforts of other organizations but to focus on needs that aren’t being met. At SocialCops, we decided to ask ourselves how our existing tools could further strengthen this ecosystem or extend the scope of relief work by 10x. This is how we think we can help:

1. Mapping remote areas

mapping, GIS, visualization
Screenshot of Offline Mapping Exercise being carried out on our Data Collection Tool ‘Collect’ on Google Maps Satellite View

Concept: There is plenty of talk about developing disaster maps using satellite and street level data to provide real time updates to the victims. However, the greatest need in this effort is mapping remote areas which are cut off from the outside world such as the districts of Rasuwa & Sindhupalchok which are probably worst affected. Numerous mapping communities have deployed their teams online to map the crisis in Nepal so that the pleas for help can be detected and resources delivered.

Collect allows one to map locations & areas in the absence of internet the most remote areas replicating the ease of pinning location on google maps. It doesn’t get easier than this.

How it can be used: These maps can come in handy for a variety of purposes like sharing shelter information & evacuation routes, planning deliveries for relief material. It can also serve as an interactive interface to allow assessment of damaged areas for resource allocation & planning.

What one needs: Low Cost Android Devices [USD 35 upward] & ability to connect to the internet atleast once to cache basic map layers locally

In case there are volunteer groups, non profits or individuals who will be able to map locations remotely – we would love to support them with the technology that it will take. 

2. Logistics & Supply Chain Management

Concept: India’s spend on disaster relief and risk reduction is 51 times higher than international numbers. Exorbitant amounts are spent on disaster relief by private and public parties, yet one is unable to track & plan logistics due to the communication breakdown. We use low-cost android technology to enable organizations to collect data at scale. With features like offline data collection, multi-language capability, voice to text translation and minimal battery usage, the tool is fit for functioning in adverse environments.

How it can be used: Disaster Management work is all about work on the go and on the ground, and a mobile with the right apps can make survey data gathering a lot more valid and real-time. Here are some of the reasons where a powerful mobile data collection tool can come in handy:

  • To track the delivery of relief materials on a real time basis
  • To disseminate information like change in schedule, supply locations etc with the volunteers on ground
  • An inventory portal for each district to keep track of what supplies are abundant and what is lacking

In case there are volunteer groups, non profits or individuals who could use our help in logistics management – we would love to help! 

3. Donation & Aid Management

Concept: Logistics has time and again come up as the biggest challenge in managing relief operations. Here’s how we extended help to Goonj to automate their donor management using android technology explained above. For the uninitiated, Goonj is a non-governmental organisation based in Delhi, which works in 21 states across India in disaster relief, humanitarian aid and community development. We’ve been huge fans of their work during the J&K floods, Uttarakhand floods and other such such calamities!

How it can be used: There are very few organizations that are operating at the scale Goonj is and sustaining this isn’t easy. It entails rigorous planning. Goonj currently manually issues receipts to donors for their contribution to the cause and updates them about the beneficiary only once the operation is complete. Using our platform, Goonj has now automated this process, which looks like this:

  • Donor drops off the relief material at their collection camps and gets his/ her personal details recorded on the mobile
  • Donors are automatically sent an email and SMS with the receipt

earthquake, nepal

We’re hoping to extend this to complete the loop once the basic infrastructure in Nepal begins to support which will look like this: Once the material reaches the beneficiary, the volunteer updates the status on the smartphone, clicks a picture (geo-tagged) and the donor is notified almost instantly.

4. Live Dashboard

All this data collected can be (& should be) visualized as a real-time map – showing where relief is needed, where camps have been setup, what all the camps need & a real-time status update. Using collect, data can live feed into a dashboard that is a satellite view image mapping of data from the ground.

earthquake, nepal, technology
This is a screenshot of a household level visualization of a village. The top left image shows what google earth sees the village as, the top right is a household level visualization that we built by visualizing the houses, the bottom shows households shaded by income level, healthcare & education.

Similarly, the live dashboard could map out Nepal at the most local level indicating worst affected areas, healthcare centres, water sources, relief camp locations etc.

Again – the goal here is not to duplicate efforts & instead collectively focus on maximizing impact of relief work. We recognize and appreciate the efforts of all these great initiatives: Nepalquake.org to help coordinate efforts on ground, EU resource dedicated to matching needs & supplies,  local mapping based on latest data, near real-time situation report updates on social media, coordination of volunteers on ground via Facebook, one stop portal.

We would love to help and support the relief work in Nepal. If you think there are places we can add value, please write in a mail to [email protected] or tweet to us at @Social_Cops.

Interested in learning more about what we do? Check out our capabilities deck for information on what we do and how our platform works, or drop us a message!