Disaster 2.0 in Australia

Post By: Kim Stephens

The Australian Government 2.0 Task Force was formed back in 2009 in order to determine how best to leverage public sector information and online engagement. They went through a process similar to what the Obama administration went through upon taking office in 2008.

But what I found most interesting, not surprisingly, was the Emergency 2.0 component. For one, I love that a quote from Brian Humphrey of LAFD was displayed promently on the blog: “We can no longer afford to work at the speed of government…we have responsibilities to the public to move the information as quickly as possible…so that they can make key decisions.

With regard to emergency managment they had some key findings. I think almost every one of these could apply here in the U.S. today, April 2011:

  • The key themes… for all stakeholders are trust, transparency and timeliness
  • Citizens are willing to trade-off reliability and accuracy for timeliness in certain circumstances, (emphasis added) and will resort to other information sources such as social media if the official authorities cannot provide timely information.
  • EM2 services need to:
    • make use of multiple channels but with consistent messages
    • be interactive and responsive
    • be ‘relevant to me’ (ie personalised)
  • For Agencies, there are a number of factors to balance:
    • Quality vs timeliness of information
    • Control vs. (perceived) chaos
    • All Hazards and PPRR
  • From a technology viewpoint, applications and services need to be:
    • standards-based to enable aggregation and mash-ups
    • low-tech & robust
    • fast-evolving (e.g. Twitter Geo-API)

Unsurprisingly, many of the crowdsourced recommendations (and those that received the most votes in our idea register) echo common themes that have been seen in Government 2.0 discussions, such as:

  • Creating open access to emergency data, to ensure others can mashup and contribute to useful services.
  • Ensuring useful government data is subscribed (eg RSS) so citizens can be kept up to date
  • Increasing executive awareness and buy-in (emphasis added)
  • Building audience literacy.

Since the massive flooding event in Australia they continue to build on these recommendations. Of course, the Queensland Police Service Media Department (as I’ve documented here) used social media with great success. But during the symposium “Social Media in Times of Crisis,” reported on by Stephen Collins of Acid Labs blog, the local governments are also looking to provide new ways for citizens to engage and contribute. This includes an emergency 2.0 wiki and the use of Ushahidi. Mr. Collins described Ipswich City Council’s concept for the emergency 2.0 wiki:

  • the wiki is under development and is intended for use by the public, responders and government as a light weight, agile way to improve informa­tion with respect to emergency and disaster management with out the need to process emergent matters and best practice through a lengthy lessons learned process that fails to adapt to changing situations and new information;
  • the wiki, with an initial focus on Queensland services, will provide “trusted, locally sourced information allowing communities to self-​​mobilise, develop resilience and lever age social capital”;
  • one of the drivers for the wiki was the Social Media for Emergency Manage­ment project that emerged from the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

Mr. Collins concludes his blog summary of the event lamenting that the government isn’t further along with its ability to embrace or leverage fairly mature technologies. Honestly, however, I think they might be much further along than we are. Read his entire post, it’s quite interesting.

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One response to “Disaster 2.0 in Australia

  1. Welcome back. Glad the site is back up.

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