Posts Tagged ‘Relief’

Crisis Opportunities for Cloud Vendors

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Continuing my journey into the world of ‘Crowdsourcing’, I was fortunate to catch the Cloud Camp Haiti Webinar on 20th Jan 2010 (see for more info).  The fundraising event, pulled together in just 4 days, raised over US$4000 for the Red Cross relief effort.  It was an open discussion about Cloud evolution and the potential role of Cloud in the Humanitarian Crisis Response.  Building on my involvment in Crisis Camp London ( and the Crisis Commons Organisation (, the webinar helped me develop my thoughts on a Crisis Response Stage Model.  The model is intended to help identify opportunities for vendors in the Cloud space to contribute to crisis operations at a strategic level,  add value to the activities of the online communities and develop parralel CSR/revenue opportunities.  What follows is an early draft of the stage model.  I welcome all feedback.

Stage 1 – Critical Disaster Response and Emergency Effort

Following an informed presentation by a cloud storage vendor, it’s understood that Govt and relief agencies will deploy mobile communications units into a disaster area within 2-8hrs.  This would provide basic wireless services (GSM, GPRS, SMS etc) establishing critical network coverage linking dense population areas, relief workers and agencies. GPS satelite services should be available and not seriously disrupted.  At this time relief agencies and NGO’s are mobilising on the ground and would be best served by hosted applications that can use available protocols.  Crisis Commons ( would be invigorating online communities to form Crisis Camps and coordinating a ‘crowdsourced’ response.

Cloud vendors and providers could find opportunities in the following areas:
i) Influencing and supporting common approaches and best practice by deploying experts and resources into the center of the Crisis Commons organisation and international Crisis Camp initiatives;
ii)  Providing organisational expertise to support the response of  the international online community (‘crowdsourcing’ management);
iii) Establishing compatible/extended instances of critical systems/services within the disaster zone to provide resilience to latency and stability issues (Cloud in a box);
iv)  Participating/leading technical delivery with the online communities
v) Innovating to deliver service provision on the ground with and others;
vi)  Access to NGO’s, relief agencies and govt departments struggling to deliver critical legacy applications and seeking innovative, cost effective  approaches for their platforms and services.

During the Haiti relief efforts, the rapid development of apps and services have relied on exploiting publicly available services and platforms that a) offer the fastest route to delivery, b) support the preference of groups of participants, c) promote/support best practice by diverse stakeholders and d) are easiest/most compatible to integrate with existing  or  customise new services from (mashable).   In time the services being promoted through Crisis Commons will become standards so the focus will shift from rapid development to rapid deployment.

Points to consider:
a) influence over the choice of platforms for international rapid collaboration and delivery happens by those closest to the centre or through an informal, local consensus – but always through route of least resistance,
b) focus is on task oriented UI’s, functionality and protocols – predominently on mobile devices
c) service and application protocols must work over the lowest common available infrastructure and standards (this could be bespoke to each app, or more intelligently defined through a service register)

Stage 2 – Aid Agency and local population support, post emergency response.

This stage would include giving access to locals and aid agencies on the ground to international databases made available in the cloud for reunification (People Finder), hospital resource management, mapping (Ushahidi), organisation and service market (We have, We Need Exchange) translation and social networking tools/blogs etc for communication and coordination.  This phase must include the critical activity of bringing local people into contact with the online community to become part of the response,  through the collaboration with international Crisis Camps and the establishing of local Crises Camps.  This is critical to sustaining the involvement on the international online community and ensuring that they remain aware of evolving requirements or the shortcomings of the services delivered on the ground.

Opportunities could exist in the following areas:

i) rapidly deployed internet workspaces and infrastructures (cloud in a box, classroom in a box etc)
ii) Access to development spaces, tools and/or international resources (crisiscamps)
iii)  The opportunity to bring international expertise to local initiatives; providing training & support.
iv) Resilience to latency or connectivity issues for  applications and services
v) The need for devices, resources and services supporting organisational and management effort.

Stage 3 – Rebuilding of municipal infrastructure using cost effective and sustainable approaches to support hospitals, schools, police, govt etc.

Cloud vendors should be influencing this process, using the knowledge gained through involvement in Stages 1 and 2.  This phase will provide the opportunity to promote and demonstrate the selling points of cloud over other approaches  and establish proof of concepts, and fully fledged services  supporting the myriad of management, organisational and social activities required.  Stage 3 offers a chance to establish a real world brochure of what can be done better using cloud approaches in preparation for Stage 4.

Additional considerations include:
i) brokering relationships with international organisations running mature instances of the systems/services required
ii) fostering relationships with NGO’s and agencies on strategic opportunities for their own services/systems
iii) Sponsoring and influencing the efforts of the online communities for sustained effort
iv) identifying transferable product and business opportunities.
v)  Participating directly in building the foundations of regional infrastructures

Stage 4 – International & local investment by govt and businesses in new local infrastructures, applications and services.

This phase would include the issue of tenders and contracts in a traditional manner to local and international businesses looking for new business.  Cloud vendors could be in a strong position to influence overall procurement and development strategies, establishing new market opportunities.  They could facilitate cooperation, networking and knowledge sharing with their corporate clients, driving standards, best practice and synergistic opportunities.

The activities of Crisis Commons and the online community since the Haiti earthquake has resulted in a phenomenal response by ordinary people across the globe.  It has presented a myriad of opportunities in the area of Cloud based services, crowdsourcing, rapid application development and agile management. The trick is to ensure that it develops in a cohesive and supporting way that is equally profitable for everyone involved.