Technology is a somewhat unexpected must-have in disaster relief efforts. If we want to continue finding such ways of applying tech, we need to pursue further diversity in the profession.
I’m headed to Florida this week to attend the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing. As I packed for my trip, the items I placed in my suitcase made me think of how fortunate I am at a time when recent storms have left thousands without even the basic necessities.
Together, these two things – the conference and the humanitarian crisis – sparked something within the technologist in me. I began to think more about storms and how technology is being used to improve our predictability, preparedness, and response to natural disasters.
Early warning and preparedness
Technology is helping us to build more accurate predictions of where and when storms will hit. Enhanced computer models, better satellite coverage and improved techniques to use data in analyzing and monitoring hurricanes is improving our predictability. We are, in theory, better-equipped than ever in preparing for storms through use of social networks to assist residents in disaster readiness and websites to monitor water levels and the like
Interconnectedness in the eye of the storm
During the storm, social networks are used by thousands of people to post updates about their surroundings, power outages, and areas that need emergency assistance. These networks are helping responders determine what supplies are needed and where to ship them. Citizens are informed on where shelter and generators are located. People can stay connected and be notified of loved ones’ safety.
Clean-up and conservation
After the storm, drones can be used to take stock of damage. Insurers can more quickly assess homes and maintain safety for adjusters and inspectors. Communications and power companies use drones to inspect equipment, bridges, overpasses, towers and other critical infrastructure to keep cities functioning and people safe.
When you think of supplies for disaster relief, technology isn’t usually up there with water, shelter, food and temporary sources of power, but it has many applications – and is likely to have many more in the future
Unexpected contexts for the application of technology, like disaster relief, serve as a reminder of why we need to continue to exercise open minds and progressive thinking. Even with the astonishing advancements we have made in just about every technical field, we need to continue to use imagination and ingenuity as we ask ourselves “How can we do more good?”
A big part of maintaining a broad perspective is making sure people from all backgrounds and viewpoints are represented in our profession. By attracting, retaining and furthering technologists from all corners of life, we can elevate our profession to its highest function
Thomson Reuters is a Pioneering Partner of the Anita Borg Institute. For the second year in a row, Thomson Reuters was named to the 2017 Top Company for Women Technologists Leadership Index as a leader in recruiting, retaining and advancing women in technical roles.
The Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing will bring 18,000 technologists together to help ensure that our teams building technology mirror the societies that use those technologies.