Making Resilience Accessible to All

Overview With access to technology differing from country to country, the World Bank is helping to build resilient societies around the world through empowering local communities.

The World Bank outlines its two main goals as reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity in developing nations around the world. Critical to this mission is its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) work building disaster risk management — helping communities not only recover from disasters quickly and effectively, but also prepare for them.

When disasters occur, the economic growth and prosperity that have developed over many years can be destroyed, and residents in less resilient communities can be pushed into poverty.

“Our job is to think about how we can use the latest developments in science and technology and apply them to some of these big disaster management challenges,” said Emma Phillips Solomon, senior disaster risk management specialist with the World Bank.


The Chasm We’re Closing

In disaster recovery, there is a significant technology and capability divide between a country that is on the cusp of 5G, connectivity and satellite imagery and a country that lacks these resources.

With planned and intricate communication networks and data availability, countries equipped with necessary technology are able to more quickly respond to and anticipate disasters. In communities that are still developing in tech and connectivity, companies like the World Bank may not even be able to be on-site to help boost resilience tech.

“We work in environments where there’s not a lot of data, not a lot of information. You try to figure out areas and you look at maps that are available and they’re from the 1970s, or the information hasn’t been digitized,” Solomon said.

“But at the same time, there’s this opportunity of leapfrogging, of taking some of these technologies and [using] the tools that are available.”

Making the knowledge available, the data available, the technology available — we see a lot of energy from the local youth to develop new solutions to help with resilience

Vivien Deparday
Disaster Risk Management

Crowdsourcing Locals

Through working with residents, communities, university students and local governments, the World Bank has engaged and empowered people to help build more resilient cities by using the tech resources that are available.

Beyond simply dropping resilient technology in a country, the World Bank, and the GFDRR in particular, is collaborating with the communities to help them co-develop technology and resilient processes that will work in the long term.

For example, those with mobile phones can collect information and share data, however piecemeal. Local students across Africa and Asia are learning to use their mobile phones and computers to create detailed maps of the area. These students then teach other students, resulting in a snowball effect that positively influences their community.

“It’s a mix of crowdsourcing and skill building and local ownership so that data is open and belongs to the people who are collecting it,” said Vivien Deparday, disaster risk management specialist at the World Bank.

Deparday highlighted a use case in Tanzania where young entrepreneurs are building their own drones to provide services to other government entities and countries.

“Making the knowledge available, the data available, the technology available — we see a lot of energy from the local youth to develop new solutions to help with resilience,” she said.


Case Study

In the Open Cities Africa project, the GFDRR is engaged with 12 cities across Africa to define their biggest challenges in disaster management. Faced with challenges like urban flooding that is exacerbated by blocked drains and solid waste, Solomon, Deparday and their team are working with stakeholders to collect information and help locals contribute to the process of learning skills, sharing information and making decisions.

The ecosystem of students, city leaders and government officials builds a stronger resilient community that can be sustained over time.

Projects like Open Cities Africa have also created job opportunities.

“With just a few seeds, a bit of knowledge and with all the energy and passion to solve the issue, I think you will have results you wouldn’t necessarily expect,” Deparday said.

Learn what the World Bank thinks is one of the biggest challenges in resilience on the CES Tech Talk podcast.

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