New Approaches to Disaster Relief Challenges

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Disaster relief has always been a challenge. NASA, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and the World Bank think they may be able to do something about this problem. Their computer experts last week started looking at the problem, to see if they could determine some new approaches to the challenges that disaster relief faces.

Random Hacks of Kindness Event

More than 1,500 software developers, students and disaster risk experts collaborated in a “hackathon,” at 20 locations around the world, including New York USA, Toronto Canada, Buenos Aires Argentina, Tel Aviv Israel, Nairobi in Kenya and Bangalore in India.

“The RHoK hackathons provide a forum for innovators to come up with real-world solutions that can make a huge difference in people’s lives,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. “NASA’s commitment to building on its data and opening it up to other users allows us to expand the tools available for disaster response.”

Chicago Code Hackers Locate Useful Land Imagery

In Chicago, a group of hackers found land imagery after visiting NASA’s Open Government website. They decided to create an application to access mapping data from the Rapid Response Database that was part of the NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer project.

The Chicago team worked on a better interface, so that future Response teams could more quickly identify areas affected by disasters, such as flooding and forest fires.

This was the third RHoK event since the first one held in Mountain View, Calif., in November 2009. That first event resulted in applications that were used after earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, to help identify survivors and help rescuers find them. The second RHoK hackathon was held simultaneously in six countries in June, so that people from many other countries could participate.

Opening this event in New York, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver delivered introductory remarks. RHoK co-founder Patrick Svenburg, director of government platform strategy at Microsoft, also attended.

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.