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Information and Communication Technology Usage in the 2010 Pakistan Floods


Abstract and Figures

In late July and early August, 2010, Pakistan was ravaged by the worst floods in its history. Heavy monsoon rains, flash floods and riverine floods combined to create a roiling body of water equal in dimension to the landmass of the United Kingdom. The floods affected 84 of Pakistan’s 121 districts and more than 20 million people – one-tenth of Pakistan’s population. The floods devastated villages from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. More than 1,700 people lost their lives, and at least 1.8 million homes were damaged or destroyed (United Nations, 2010). This report examines how information and communication technologies (ICTs) were utilized in the response to these devastating floods. It identifies the major issues confronted by the humanitarian community in Pakistan and what could have been done to better utilize ICT tools. In recent decades, few disasters have affected as many people over as vast of an area as these floods did. The humanitarian community responded with one of its biggest operation of recent times.
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Content may be subject to copyright.
Information and
Technology Usage in the
2010 Pakistan Floods
© Save the Children
a case study by
Intel Foundation and
Microsoft Corporation
provided funding for
this report.
of contents
Foreword ........................................................................................................................ 3
Acknowledgements .................................................................................................... 4
Introduction ................................................................................................................... 5
Study Approach ........................................................................................................... 6
Background .................................................................................................................... 7
The Humanitarian Response .................................................................................. 12
The Role of Technology .......................................................................................... 21
The Role of Information Management .............................................................. 38
Summary of Key Findings ..................................................................................... 53
Recommendations .................................................................................................... 59
Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 60
Bibliography ................................................................................................................. 61
In late summer 2010, the world watched as the people and lands of Pakistan were
deluged by monsoon rainfall that triggered widespread ooding. These oods
affected more than 20 million people, many of whom could be reached only by
aircraft. Floodwaters inundated and destroyed much of Pakistan’s vast wheat
crop – the nation’s largest homegrown food source -- creating a food crisis across
Much of this you already know. What you may not know, but certainly can imagine,
is the critical role information and communications technology (ICT) played in
expediting aid to those in need.
For the past 10 years, NetHope has played a key role in providing ICT solutions
to support relief efforts in some of the world’s largest disasters. NetHope, along
with many of our more than 30 international humanitarian agency member
organizations, came quickly to the aid of those in need in Pakistan.
John Holmes, the Emergency Relief Coordinator with the United Nations, said
in a new release shortly after the onset of the Pakistan disaster, “These oods
pose unprecedented logistical challenges, and this requires an extraordinary
effort by the international community.” Technology can and did play a major role
in addressing these many logistical challenges, including communications, the
lifeblood of any response.
In this major study, generously supported by our long-term partners Intel
Foundation and Microsoft Corporation, we examine how information and
communication technologies were used to provide the humanitarian community
with the essential tools to speed delivery of food, water, shelter, healthcare and
family reunication services to the people of Pakistan. Our goal here is twofold –
rst, to better prepare for the next emergency, and, second, to inform emergency
preparedness in other disaster-prone countries around the world.
Although progress had been made in ICT use since the devastating earthquake
in Pakistan in 2005, there is much room for improvement. In this study, we make
recommendations for improvement based on the ndings of our research.
At NetHope, we are always learning and looking for ways to share our experiences.
Bill Brindley
CEO, NetHope
thank you The report partners, NetHope, Intel Foundation and Microsoft
Corporation, are thankful to the many organizations and
individuals who shared their ideas and experiences to inform
this report. In particular, our thanks go to the humanitarian
workers who responded to the Pakistan oods and willingly
took part in our surveys and interviews.
Kamran Sarwar, IT Coordinator of ActionAid Pakistan, and
Saqib Aziz, ICT Coordinator for Concern Worldwide Pakistan
Program, merit special recognition for their assistance in
organizing our eld research trip to Pakistan in January 2011.
Without their support with all things logistical, the research
would not have been as detailed.
We are grateful to other members of the NetHope Pakistan
local chapter, as well as members of the Global and Pakistan
ETC Cluster and the Pakistan Inter-Agency Information
Management Task Force, for their input at all stages of the
The volunteer, technology and private-sector communities
gave detailed information about their involvement in the
ood response and provided valuable review of this report
during its nal stages. Special thanks to Paul Currion, Andrej
Verity, Veronika Wolf, Jesper Lund and Nigel Snoad for their
thoughtful input.
This report would not have been possible without the
generous support of NetHope’s long-term partners, Intel
Foundation and Microsoft. Without their shared vision with
NetHope of the value of information and communication
technology in humanitarian response, this report would not
have been possible.
We also salute the leadership of NetHope, especially Frank
Schott and William Brindley, for their visionary work in
improving the use of information and communication
technology in humanitarian response and their
encouragement along the way. Of course, misunderstandings
and errors remain the fault of the author, who is indebted to
those who will raise concerns and help us correct the record.
This report would not have been as compelling without
the rich photos, graphs and tables contributed by those
acknowledged throughout this report. Special thanks go to
Paige Dearing for the layout and edits, and to Nick Rousso
for making the text more readable.
Lastly, the author would like to thank his spouse and children
for their patience during the research phase through the
completion of this: Sonja, Teddy, Olafur, Chaz, Axel and Katla.
In late July and early August, 2010, Pakistan was ravaged by the worst oods in its
history. Heavy monsoon rains, ash oods and riverine oods combined to create
a roiling body of water equal in dimension to the landmass of the United Kingdom.
The oods affected 84 of Pakistan’s 121 districts and more than 20 million people
– one-tenth of Pakistan’s population. The oods devastated villages from the
Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. More than 1,700 people lost their lives, and at least
1.8 million homes were damaged or destroyed (United Nations, 2010).
This report examines how information and communication technologies (ICTs)
were utilized in the response to these devastating oods. It identies the major
issues confronted by the humanitarian community in Pakistan and what could have
been done to better utilize ICT tools. In recent decades, few disasters have affected
as many people over as vast of an area as these oods did. The humanitarian
community responded with one of its biggest operation of recent times.
The potential role of ICTs in more effective humanitarian response has long
been understood. But while some advances have been made, especially with
connectivity, progress to fully realize this potential, especially in the eld, has been
slow. As new methods of connectivity become available, information will begin to
ow in ways that had not been previously possible. This report looks at challenges
with information sharing in the humanitarian community and suggests ways to
address them.
The ultimate goal is to guide the humanitarian community and those involved in
large-scale disaster response toward more efcient uses of technology. It is our
hope that these ndings open a window to the ongoing revolution in information
management and in the information technology community as humanitarian
organizations adopt Web 2.0 concepts to help create Humanitarian Response 2.0.
Gisli Olafsson
Emergency Response
Director, NetHope
approach This report is based on a study supported by
generous grants from Intel Foundation and
Microsoft Corporation. The objective of the study
was to identify ways in which ICTs played a role
in the response to the Pakistan oods and to
recommend additional ways in which ICTs can be
used to enhance emergency response efforts in
this disaster prone country.
Research Methods
This study was done in three phases. During the
rst, information on the use of ICTs during the
ood response in Pakistan was reviewed.. During
the second phase, local NetHope members and
members of the Emergency Telecommunication
Cluster (ETC) and Information Management
Working Group (IMWG) were surveyed. During
the nal phase, members of the humanitarian
community were interviewed during a eld visit to
The eld visit was conducted during January 2011
and included interviews in Islamabad, Hyderabad,
South Sindh province and surrounding areas, and
in Multan, Punjab District. During the visit, NetHope
members, UN agencies, local NGOs and members
of the affected population were interviewed
about their experience during the ood-relief
response. At the time of the eld visit, large areas
were still underwater and more than 300,000
people were living in temporary settlements.
Research Questions
Some of the key research questions addressed in
the study were:
How was ICT being utilized as part of the response to the
Pakistan oods?
Did lack of connectivity hamper the relief operations?
Did lack of ICT equipment hamper the relief operations?
Did lack of ICT skills hamper the relief operations?
What were the major ICT needs?
Was there effective collaboration with regard to ICT?
How was information shared during the relief operations?
What were the major licensing/customs issues with
regard to ICT?
What were the main software solutions utilized during the
relief operation?
What innovative uses of ICT were utilized in the relief
© Hira S. Malik
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan,
which gained independence
from Britain in 1947, is located in
South Asia. It stretches from the
Arabian Sea in the south to the
Himalaya Mountains in the north.
It is bordered by Iran, Afghanistan,
China and India. Pakistan lies in
sub-tropic and temperate climate
regions. Almost 180 million people
live there, and large portions of
the population are vulnerable to
climate change because they live
in low coastal areas or river deltas
(Farooqi, Khan, & Mir, 2005).
Indus River
The Indus River originates in Tibet and ows
more than 3000km through China and Pakistan.
It is one of the key water resources for Pakistan,
enabling agriculture in its fertile water basin
(WikiPedia, 2011). The Indus River plains are
vulnerable to oods. Before 2010, the last major
ood of the Indus was in 1992 and resulted in
considerable damage and loss of life. Since
then, a large network of dikes and oodwater
regulatory infrastructure have been built for
ood protection. (Khan & Khan, 2008)
History of disasters
Pakistan is subject to strong earthquakes, cyclones and
oods. The most deadly disaster in recent years was
the 2005 earthquake that left more than 73,000 dead.
This section includes
background information
about Pakistan and
touches on the causes
and effects of the 2010
Type of Disaster
Earthquake (seismic activity)
Earthquake (seismic activity)
Earthquake (seismic activity)
Earthquake (seismic activity)
Year Fatalities
Created on: Jun-3-2011. - Data version: v12.07
Source: “EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database, - Université
Catholique de Louvain - Brussels - Belgium”
While earthquakes have been the most deadly
disasters in Pakistan, oods have affected far
more people.
Type of Disaster
Year Total Affected
Created on: Jun-3-2011. - Data version: v12.07
Source: “EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database, - Université
Catholique de Louvain - Brussels - Belgium”
© Save the Children
Type of Disaster
Year Damage
Created on: Jun-3-2011. - Data version: v12.07
Source: “EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database, - Université
Catholique de Louvain - Brussels - Belgium”
The same holds true when looking at disasters
from an economic perspective.
The Technology Landscape
Pakistan has Internet penetration of about
12%, which is higher than other countries
with similar economies, due in large part to
the government’s focus in recent years on
promoting ICTs and other new technologies.
Mobile phone penetration has recently increased
at a rapid pace and there are now more than
107 million cell-phone owners (Pakistan Telecom
Authority, 2011). Mobile phone usage is greatest
among men (86% report having mobile phones,
compared with 40% of women). Mobile phone
use is uneven across provinces. Balochistan is
the least served (only a third of the people have
access to mobile phones), while more than 51%
of those in Punjab have access.
the 2010
In late July 2010, massive rains
in Pakistan and the Himalayas
led to unprecedented ooding
that submerged one-fth of the
country and affected more than 20
million people (Thomas & Rendón,
2010). The rains lasted for more
than eight weeks. What began as
seasonal ash oods evolved into
one of the most massive disasters
in recent time. The oods started
in the provinces of Balochistan
and Khyber Pakhunkwa. By mid-
August, oodwaters had reached
the southern provinces of Punjab
and Sindh, affecting people living
along the entire Indus River basin.
The oods affected, directly or indirectly, about
two-thirds of Pakistan’s 121 districts, devastating
and submerging entire villages, roads, bridges,
water supplies and sanitation infrastructure,
agricultural lands and livestock, as well as
washing away houses and health and education
facilities (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
The ooding was predicted just four months
earlier in a report written by the Pakistan Task
Force on Climate Change: “it is projected that
climate change will increase the variability of the
monsoon rains and enhance the frequency and
severity of extreme events such as oods and
droughts.” (Planning Commission Government
of Pakistan, 2010)
Climate conditions
Unusually heavy rains in July and early
August were the main cause of the oods.
Satellites were used to track heavy rains over
northeastern Pakistan and large portions of
India during July 2010, mainly during the periods
of July 12-13, 19-22 and 28-30. Their estimates
put the amount of rainfall at more than 300
Water Management issues
Deforestation and ood control engineering
systems played a role in making things worse
than could reasonably be expected (Mustafa
& Wrathall, 2011). One key problem with water
management was ofcials’ failure to properly
maintain the existing system of barrages and
canals (Gronewold, 2010). Further, there were
examples of landowners breaching levies to
Ak s a i
Ak s a i
Ch i n
Ch i n
Arabian Sea
K . P .
Floodwaters entered Gaji Khuhwar town
in Qamber Shahdadkot on 30 August
Dadu and Johi towns are under threat
as floodwaters continue to move
southwards into Dadu district
150,000 without assistance along
Seta road
Floodwaters are now threatening the
towns of Jati and Chohar Jamali
400,000 people are believed to have moved
to higher ground on the outskirts of Makli town
and along the Karachi-Hyderabad highway
It is reported that almost 1,300 km2 of land
have been flooded in and around Thatta
district following a breach near Sanjani last week
Significant flooding has been
reported in Mehar and Khairpur Nathan
Shah tehsils in Dadu district. 600,000
to 800,000 displaced in last four days.
Data Source
NDMA, PDMA, UNOCHA, Barrage levels - Pakistan Met Dept
Source for Moderate/Severe rating are the agency reports
The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not
imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of
the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or
area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or
Dotted line represents approximately the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir
agreed upon by India and Pakistan. The final status of Jammu and Kashmir has
not yet been agreed upon by the parties.
OCHA Coordination Hubs
Barrage (showing water level)
Affected area, rating unknown
Limited access by road vehicle
Map Doc Name:
Creation Date:
Nominal Scale at A4 paper size:
07 September 2010
Pakistan: Flood Affected Distri cts (06 September 2010)
0 100 200 300 40050
Table updated from NDMA, 06 September 2010
Province Deaths Injured Houses
No info
Gilgit Baltistan
No info
* Additional 600,000 IDPs from Sindh are living in Balochistan
Source org: MapAction/ OCHA; Created on: Sept-7-2010 - Source: “NDMA, PDMA, UNOCHA,
Barrage levels - Pakistan Met Dept”
it is
of the
rains and
severity of
such as
oods and
protect their land. Because of this, in some
instances, towns and villages were ooded
instead of agricultural land.
Effects of the ooding
It is estimated that at the height of the ooding,
nearly one-fth of Pakistan’s landmass was
under water. The ooding submerged 2.4 million
hectares of cultivated agricultural land, which
had serious consequences for the approximately
80% of those affected whose livelihoods depend
on agriculture (Fair, 2011).
Based on gures from Pakistan’s National
Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the
2010 oods constitute the country’s largest
disaster, affecting 20,202,327 persons. Despite
the scale of the disaster, the number of deaths
was relatively low at 1,985, which is much lower
than the 2005 earthquake. A stark difference,
however as pointed out in the IASC Real Time
evaluation report, is that the 2005 earthquake
was much more localized (Polastro, Nagrah,
Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World
Bank (WB) estimated the oods caused around
$9.5 billion in damage to infrastructure, farms
and homes, as well as other direct and indirect
losses (ADB, 2010). The Pakistan government
put the gure of direct and indirect losses closer
to $43 billion, more than four times the ADB and
WB estimate (Fair, 2011).
The 2010 oods in Pakistan represented disaster
on an unprecedented scale. It was largest
disaster ever recorded in terms of affected area,
affected people and households damaged. The
Pakistan oods affected a larger area and more
people than those affected by the 2004 Indian
Ocean Tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake
and the 2010 Haiti earthquakes combined
(Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
© Plan International
amount of damages
caused by ooding,
estimated by the Asian
Development Bank and
World Bank
$9.5 billion
the humanitarian
© Olaf Saltbones, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies
The chief difference between
oods and sudden-onset disasters,
such as earthquakes, is that more
areas and people are affected by
ooding as the oodwaters head
downstream but the humanitarian
situation usually deteriorates.
The Indus River stretches more
than 1,600km and has a massive
oodplain, requiring a complex
humanitarian response to span the
extent of the disaster (WikiPedia,
The humanitarian response in Pakistan was the
largest relief operation ever launched by the
international community (Polastro, Nagrah,
Steen, & Zafar, 2011). It was led during the initial
weeks by organizations with a longstanding
presence in the country. As the magnitude of
the situation grew, more organizations mobilized
their staff and resources.
This section examines
key aspects of the
humanitarian response to
the oods, both nationally
and internationally, and
identies the critical
challenges faced by
© Jonathan Brooker, Solidarites International
In Pakistan, it is the role of provincial disaster
management authorities (PDMAs) to coordinate
disaster response within their provinces.
There are district-level disaster management
authorities within each province, but in many
cases those do not have the capacity needed
to perform their role. The National Disaster
Management Authority (NDMA) plays a
technical-support role at the federal level to the
provincial authorities. When a PDMA’s capacity
is stretched to its limits, or when a PDMA needs
assistance, it sends a request to the NDMA. One
of the few physical resources the NDMA can
provide is the deployment and assistance of the
Pakistan military (Haider, 2010; Qamar, 2009).
The military provides rst-response capacity
when it comes to the immediate rescue and
relief of the population. According to the
Pakistan government, more than 20,000
Pakistan troops of the armed forces — including
medical teams, along with dozens of helicopters,
several C-130 aircraft and more than 1,000
boats — were mobilized in search-and-rescue
operations throughout the country. The military
also distributed relief supplies to displaced and
isolated populations in the rst three weeks of
the emergency (UN Secretary General, 2011).
The Pakistan government also established call
centers to receive and respond to emergency
calls. At the same time, engineering teams were
dispatched to attempt to strengthen riverbanks
vulnerable to oods and breach levies to control
oods in other places (UN Secretary General,
As has been the case in many large-scale
disasters, the government received criticism
for what was perceived as slow response to the
disaster. Although some aspects of that opinion
may be warranted, the extent of the disaster was
such that perhaps no government in the world
could have met the expectation held by the
public and the media (Mustafa & Wrathall, 2011).
To the government’s credit and in part due to
the work of the NDMA, predicted secondary
effects of the oods were averted, resulting in
no second wave of deaths, pandemics or food
insecurities (Fair, 2011).
A year after the onset of the oods, many of the
internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned
to their homes, though signicant challenges
remain, with rebuilding efforts and rehabilitation
of IDPs among them.
The effectiveness of the PDMAs varied greatly
from province to province. In areas that had
received signicant international assistance in
the past, capacity building efforts and years
of working with the international community
resulted in a more effective response.
Conversely, the provinces of Sindh and Punjab
had limited experience and capacity to respond
to the oods. These were also areas that the
international community had not previously
been active in and therefore did not have
established relationships with the provincial
authoritites . The international community
established coordination hubs in these
provinces, in cities closest to the affected areas
instead of in the provincial capitals. This tended
to foster a great disconnect between the local
PDMAs and the international community.
were mobilized in search-
and-rescue operations
throughout Pakistan
troops &
1,000+ boats
Lack of coordination between the NDMA and
the PDMAs — often resulting from difculties
in sharing information — meant that provincial
authorities often became detached from the
overall relief efforts. Recent efforts directed by
the UN OCHA and UNDP focus on improving the
PDMAs’ inclusion in the coordination structures
(Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
The Pakistani Civil Society and citizens also
were quite active in the response. In many
cases, local organizations collaborated well with
local authorities, taking on lead roles in search-
and-rescue operations and providing essential
supplies to people in hard-to-reach areas (Oxley,
© Hira S. Malik
Relief efforts began in the north of Pakistan,
where the UN and international NGOs had an
established presence dating to the Swat Valley
conict between the Pakistan military and the
Taliban in 2008. The international community
provided relief to people affected by the conict
and established good relationships with local
communities, ofcials and military forces —
relationships that allowed for a quicker and
more effective response to the ooding than in
other areas.
As mentioned earlier, the international
community had not been operating in the
provinces farther south prior to the 2010 oods
and therefore lacked key relationships with
local authorities. The result was inefcient
communication and coordination with local
authorities in the south (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen,
& Zafar, 2011).
Coordination Mechanisms
On Aug. 4, 2010, the United Nations
Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) in Pakistan
requested a United Nations Disaster Assessment
and Coordination (UNDAC) team to support
his ofce and the Humanitarian Country Team
(HCT) in coordinating a ood response. A team
of seven UNDAC members immediately were
dispatched, with two more UNDAC members
joining a week later. The UNDAC team was
supported by three International Humanitarian
Partnership (IHP) ICT modules and a MapAction
team (UNDAC, 2010).
The team’s role was to support the Humanitarian
Coordinator and the Humanitarian Country
Team in facilitating and carrying out initial
assessments in the affected areas and to help
set up new coordination hubs and strengthen
existing ones. The team also provided initial
information management surge capacity to
the Humanitarian Country Team. After about
three weeks, the UNDAC team handed over its
responsibilities to a second team, consisting of
eight UNDAC members who arrived Aug. 23 and
stayed for three more weeks.
An additional role of the UNDAC team was
to help strengthen the humanitarian cluster
system in the country. The cluster approach was
introduced following the South Asia tsunami
in 2004 as a concept to better coordinate the
humanitarian response. It was rst tried out
during the Pakistan Earthquake in 2005 and has
since been utilized in every major disaster.
It quickly became apparent to the international
community that, to better coordinate relief
efforts, it was essential to establish coordination
hubs closer to the areas severely affected by
the oods. Due to the enormous geographical
spread in Pakistan, trying to coordinate
everything from one location was virtually
impossible. The UN introduced coordination
hubs to each of the affected provinces, and
through this decentralization, clusters were
implemented closer to the eld.
As mentioned earlier, especially in the southern
provinces, this meant UN agencies and INGOs
were working in new areas. It also meant these
organizations had to invest signicant resources
to set up facilities to ensure they could play a
role in the hub coordination structure (Polastro,
trying to
from one
was virtually
Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011). This investment was
valuable; it meant much easier access to cluster
coordination meetings and eliminated the need to
travel long distances from province capitals.
However, this also meant that provincial
authorities were disconnected from what the
international community was doing. Members of
the international community did not seem to think
this was terribly important, however, as most of
the provinces were thought to have insufcient
capacity to lead and oversee the provincial
coordination (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar,
The concept of splitting a large-scale operation
by province and coordinating efforts from
provincial hubs is a common one. It ensures that
coordination is better than it could be from one
central location. But coordinating from hubs tends
to hamper information sharing because it requires
yet another level of coordination, and when
information sharing is lacking, it can seem as if
there are many different emergencies existing at
the same time in different countries.
Having these coordination hubs also requires
more from staff and resources. Organizations
need to participate in coordination meetings both
at the central level as well as in each geographical
area in which they operate. This puts enormous
stress on specialized functions such as ICT and IM
support that have limited capacity worldwide.
The Role of Clusters
In September 2005 the Inter-Agency Standing
Committee (IASC) endorsed the concept of
the cluster approach and agreed to designate
global cluster leads – specically for humanitarian
emergencies – in nine sectors or areas of activity.
The IASC Principals also agreed that the cluster
approach should be applied, with some exibility
at the country level (IASC, 2006).
Following the earthquake in Kashmir in October
2005, Pakistan became the rst country to take
part in a pilot program for the cluster approach.
The pilot was awed in many ways, because at
this early stage the roles and the responsibilities
of the various humanitarian actors under the
cluster system had not been fully dened or
understood. A great deal of experience has been
gained by the humanitarian community since
2005, however, while many aspects of the cluster
approach have been further dened, and many
of the issues raised through the years have been
In the early stages of the 2010 ood emergency,
the Pakistan government and the Humanitarian
Country Team disagreed about the number of
clusters to be implemented. This is something
that often occurs, especially if there is a
disconnect between the clusters as dened
by the UN and the government ministries and
organizations involved in the disaster. In the end,
the 12 clusters were implemented -- agriculture,
camp management and camp coordination,
coordination, community restoration, education,
food, health, logistics and emergency
telecommunications, nutrition, protection, shelter
and non-food items, and water/sanitation and
hygiene (WASH) – and four sub-clusters: child
protection, mass communication, gender task
became the
first country
to take part
in a pilot
program for
the cluster
force and gender-based violence (UN Secretary
General, 2011).
The cluster approach requires lead agencies
and some of the larger humanitarian actors to
provide personnel and resources to participate
in cluster coordination. A large-scale disaster
such as the Pakistan Floods was bound to be
split into geographical hubs, requiring more
resources than disasters in smaller areas. On top
of this, the humanitarian community was already
heavily occupied in Haiti, responding to the
earthquake that occurred only six months earlier.
With insufcient staff, resources and leadership in
Pakistan, it was almost inevitable there would be
inefciencies in coordinating the cluster system
(Thomas & Rendón, 2010).
The primary purpose of the cluster approach is
to enable timely, coordinated and comprehensive
humanitarian response to a disaster. The ever-
growing scale of the Pakistan disaster, as
oodwaters rushed south, meant the humanitarian
community was constantly scrambling to keep
up. As workers attempted to provide assistance
in newly-hit areas, they were forced to minimize
efforts they had started in areas that had already
been hit (Thomas & Rendón, 2010).
While the cluster approach has been in use since
2005, many organizations have been reluctant
to fully participate. Many organizations feel
they are not getting enough value out of their
participation. Others point to the overhead
caused by clusters as a waste of valuable
resources. Some participate in the beginning to
ensure their projects and efforts become part of
joint appeals. They see value in the cluster as a
funding opportunity, but once projects become
dened, many stop attending meetings because
they no longer perceive value in participating
(Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011). In
Pakistan, non-UN organizations often stopped
attending cluster meetings after the initial appeal
was issued.
A key goal of the cluster approach is to enhance
information sharing between the humanitarian
actors focused on a particular sector, yet many
organizations are reluctant to share information
with clusters and other response organizations
– a situation that leads to duplicated efforts and
gaps in the response. Clearly, organizations need
to perceive value in sharing their information,
but they often feel that sharing with the cluster
is simply an exercise in giving something and
getting nothing in return.
The level of participation in the coordination in
Pakistan varied greatly between organizations,
with some neither providing information to
clusters nor to local authorities. Others (e.g.
Catholic Relief Services) were commended for
engaging successfully in close coordination
with provincial authorities early in the response
(Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
Our survey, detailed in the following chapter,
revealed that the primary methods of sharing
information with other humanitarian organization
were email and verbal communication. When
it came to sharing information with the
government, it was almost always through verbal
communication or printed documents. All parties
can agree that the process of sharing information
should be made easier for everyone and, through
For more
information on
Catholic Relief
Services, visit
the same process, organizations that are sharing
information should get information in return.
Many humanitarian organizations feel that clusters
are “too heavy, with too much coordination,”
taking focus away from operations (Polastro,
Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011). It is true that
clusters require a large number of additional staff,
resources and time. The current approach is to
utilize cluster meetings as the main information-
sharing platform, but with the high frequency
of meetings and the time it took to get to them,
some organizations felt that the ends failed to
justify the means.
Owing to this lack of information management
capacity, information sharing in many cases
was limited to tracking who was working where
(3W). While this in some cases eliminated the
duplication of efforts, it did not contribute to
strategic operational planning. A comprehensive
common operational picture of the Pakistan
response simply did not exist, and thus a common
strategic operational plan was not in place for all
of the clusters in each province.
While it is crucial to create a common operational
picture, the process was hindered in great part
by the fact that information being gathered
by the various humanitarian partners was not
standardized, as different methodologies were
used to both gather and format data (Polastro,
Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011). This lack of
standardization points to a dearth of coordination
and leadership at the global cluster level. Steps
need to be taken to ensure these formats and
methodologies are dened and agreed upon as
a priority before the next large emergency. Each
individual global cluster should have worked on
standardizing templates for data capture and
sharing in the ve years since the initial cluster
While some clusters worked closely together
and with the relevant line ministries in the
government, many others operated in silos, not
sharing information. Even with a large UN OCHA
presence (40-50 people) in Pakistan, these
people were spread thin, lacking the required
capacity and, in many cases, the leadership
skills to ensure inter-cluster coordination and
information sharing (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, &
Zafar, 2011).
Overall, the lack of cooperation and coordination
led to the humanitarian community having an
incomplete understanding of the numbers and
locations of affected people, their needs, and the
activities being executed throughout the region
(Thomas & Rendón, 2010).
For information sharing, many clusters
established websites for intra-cluster
collaboration and information sharing and
most of the clusters made use of or linked their
content to a website called PakResponse that
was specically set up for the Pakistan disaster.
It allowed information sharing at the inter-
and intra-cluster levels and provided a useful
one-stop place to nd information from the
humanitarian community. One drawback: The site
was used mostly for document sharing, instead of
sharing information at a geo-spatial or database
level. This meant utilizing information from the
site could be difcult because it had to be re-
formatted before use.
For more
information on
PakReport, visit
The continuously evolving situation on the
ground made it difcult for the humanitarian
community to adapt (Polastro, Nagrah,
Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
The Government of Pakistan initially
believed it could handle the emergency
response and was reluctant to request
external assistance; however when the
scope of the disaster became more clear,
international humanitarian assistance was
requested, but this resulted in some delays
in mobilization of resources in the early
The sheer scale of the emergency meant
that the response was soon stretched to
its limit. As a result, coverage was limited
and generally poorly prioritized (Polastro,
Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
The denition of non-standard clusters/
sectors in the Initial Flash Appeal resulted
in some donor confusion on the agencies
requesting funds and this delayed the time
required to donor pledges of the funds.
The humanitarian community lacks sufcient
staff and resources to stage multiple large-
scale operations at the same time (Thomas
& Rendón, 2010).
Information sharing was limited due to
lack of perceived value in the humanitarian
In most areas and clusters, there was
a disconnect between the work of the
Pakistan government and the international
humanitarian community.
In most areas, local authorities lacked the
capacity and skills to play a leading role in
the response effort.
While operational coordination often was
implemented at the district level (often
with support from OCHA), there was a
critical disconnect between the INGOs and
the district authorities when it came to
information sharing (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen,
& Zafar, 2011).
The humanitarian
community faced many
challenges with a disaster
of this magnitude. This
list points to some of the
key ones that affected
the community’s ability to
effectively coordinate its
the role of
© World Food Programme
the role of
This section examines
technology’s role in the
2010 ood response
and identies ways in
which it could have been
used more effectively.
As a starting point, the
section reviews a study
done for the Emergency
Capacity Building (ECB)
project following the
2005 Kashmir earthquake
(Currion, 2005). That
study provides a baseline
for how technology was
employed at the onset of
the cluster approach. We
then detail ndings from
our 2010 survey into the
use of technology in the
Pakistan ood response.
Observation from 2005 earthquake
The 2005 study provides terric insights into
how technology was being utilized six years ago.
Perhaps surprisingly, many of the same issues
identied in 2005 surfaced yet again in 2010 – a
call to action for the humanitarian community to
identify solutions.
Following are some of the key positive points
identied by the 2005 study:
Most ICT staff was national staff, which led to
a better understanding of the ICT sector and
capacity within the country.
Many ICT staff members had worked for
multiple NGOs and had established contacts
with their counterparts in other NGOs.
Some national staff had returned from
international positions to support the
response, and with them came expertise and
needed skills.
ICT coordination took place within the NGO
community – though it was limited to the
membership of NetHope.
The experience of NetHope clearly
demonstrated the benets of eld
coordination of ICTs, and the need for this
coordination to become deeper and possibly
The burden of coordination within the NGO
community was assumed by existing local
resources rather than separate coordination
staff – an approach that might not scale to
larger disasters.
Cell phones were widely used, due to their
ubiquity and the minimal need to train
people on how to use them.
Some of the key issues raised by the 2005
Data gathering processes and standards
were poorly dened.
Email was the predominant information-
sharing method, yet staff members often
lacked reliable access to their e-mail
NGOs did not participate in ICT coordination
meetings, primarily because they felt things
discussed there were too UN-centric. The UN
was not trying to exclude NGOs, but there
was a lack of mutual understanding about
needs and capacities.
Separate VSAT operations were being
planned for the UN and the NGO
Allocation of staff time to coordination
must be considered a cost to agencies and
managed accordingly.
Customs delays were a signicant obstacle,
adding at least two weeks to deployment of
It had often been assumed that bandwidth
limitations were a large issue, but eld
staff were much more concerned with the
consistency of connection. While eld staff
generally expected to wait for downloads,
breaks in connection became extremely
There was a shortage of satellite phones for
use in areas where communication systems
were not operational.
The cost of satellite communications
remained high, limiting the use of effective
solutions such as BGANs.
New staff members didn’t grasp the high
cost of satellite usage until the bills arrived.
Overall, there was a lack of knowledge by
existing staff in satellite equipment use.
Equipment — in particularly VSATs — was
slow to arrive.
With those issues in mind, we move forward to
the results of the survey performed following
the 2010 oods.
© World Food Programme
the role of
The survey was conducted from
Dec. 15, 2010 to Jan. 15, 2011 and
canvassed members of three
groups – the NetHope Pakistan
Chapter, the Pakistan Emergency
Telecommunication Cluster,
and the Pakistan Humanitarian
Information Management Group.
Survey Participants
The survey participants came from a mix of
organization: some from NetHope member
NGOs, others from the broader humanitarian
community as well as the government. Some
organizations indicated in their responses that
ICT was their primary role, and of those 68% had
worked in the humanitarian eld for at least ve
years, and a majority (53%) had worked in the
eld for more than 10 years. Clearly, many of the
ICT workers in Pakistan had vast experience in
the humanitarian eld.
When asked whether they had sufcient
connectivity to perform their role in the relief
operation, an overwhelming majority (97%) said
connectivity was sufcient. A few commented
on issues experienced early in the response,
when on-and-off VSAT connection was relied
NetHope member organizations all connected
to the Internet via local Internet Service
Providers (ISP). While most of the UN agencies
also utilized ISPs, they had to rely on VSAT as
backup due to difculty in getting connections
in the early weeks. Also of interest, an
overwhelming majority (94%) of respondents
were connected to the Internet at all times, while
3% reported connecting once or more per day
and the remaining 3% once or more per week.
Internet connections were not being shared
among the NGO community, while 33% of the
UN organizations were sharing connections with
other UN agencies.
When asked how improved connectivity might
have helped them better perform their role,
45% said it would not have mattered greatly.
The remaining 55% said improved connectivity
would have allowed for better use of web-based
solutions and HQ solutions.
ICT Support
When asked whether a lack of trained ICT staff
had hindered getting connectivity working, one-
third of respondents said yes. The percentage
was a bit higher within NetHope member
organizations than other response groups. This
might be explained by the fact that a somewhat
lower percentage (73%) of NetHope member
organizations said they had ICT support staff
dedicated to helping eld workers compared to
the 88% reported by the UN organizations.
Issues with connectivity
during 2010 Pakistan
Floods relief operations
None — 27%
High latency — 12%
Connection interuption — 17%
Low bandwidth — 47%
Survey Participant
NetHope member organization worker
Non-Nethope NGO representative
Government representative
UN workers
Field Worker — 17%
Field Office Worker — 33%
County Office Worker — 50%
The distribution of survey
While two-thirds of the UN organizations said
they had a roster of ICT experts to deploy at the
onset of a disaster, only one-third of NetHope
member organizations had such a roster in
ICT Equipment
Close to three-fourths of respondents said
they had sufcient ICT equipment to perform
their role. Those who said they lacked enough
equipment mentioned laptops, solar chargers,
UPSs, GPS devices and cameras as the most
needed. In the eld visit, this was supported
by the fact that electricity is in short supply in
Pakistan, making desktop computers virtually
useless because of unreliable power supply.
Those who received donated equipment said it
helped very much in the response, saving money
that could be used for activities such as direct
aid or supplying laptops to replace less-useful
desktops. Many of those who did not receive
donated equipment said it would not have
been terribly useful, though a few noted that
additional equipment would have allowed for
more independent teams to be deployed.
When asked what software solution they lacked
but would have benetted from, anti-virus was
most frequently mentioned, with Microsoft
Project and GIS solutions in second place.
Also mentioned were Microsoft SharePoint,
LAN/WAN monitoring software and design
applications such as the Adobe suite.
ICT Skills
Of those who indicated ICT as their primary
function, 82% felt they had sufcient skills to
perform their role. Among the remaining 18%,
many said they needed to know more about
the latest server technologies. Of those who
indicated Information Management as their
primary role, 67% felt they had sufcient skills.
The remaining one-third said they needed more
advanced database skills.
When asked to rank the skills of their co-workers,
70% felt those workers had sufcient skills, while
the remaining 30% saw opportunities for their co-
workers to improve their Microsoft Ofce (Word,
Excel, Access) and emergency ICT skills.
When asked what training methods were
effective, classroom training scored highest,
with on-the-job training a close second. They
were followed by training videos, online training
courses and, lastly, training guides.
Respondents indicated that UN organizations
offered more ICT skills training for their workers
(57%) than was available for NGO workers (33%).
The difference was even higher with emergency
ICT usage (SatPhone, BGAN, VSAT, GPS, etc.)
two-thirds of UN workers said they had access to
such training while only 15% of NGO workers had
GIS applications — 2%
Corporate applications — 3%
Social media sites— 4%
Collaborative applications — 4%
Databases — 7%
Websites — 11%
Spreadsheets — 13%
Word processing — 16%
E-mail — 44%
Software use and frequency
0 20 40 60 80 100
UN organizations with
ICT-dedicated staff — 88%
NetHope member organizations
with ICT-dedicated staff — 73%
Problems with software — 17%
Lack of Availability — 30%
Viruses — 37%
Issues faced with donated
ICT equipment
NetHope member organization
Non-NetHope NGO
Proportion that received
donated ICT equipment
Half of the NetHope members reported having
access to training provided by other NGOs, 38%
said they had access to training organized by the
private sector, and 12% said they had access to
UN-organized training. Among UN workers, 36%
reported having access to training organized
by other UN organizations, 14% had access to
training organized by NGOs, 14% had access to
training organized by the private sector, and 7%
had access to training organized by government
agencies. The remaining 29 percent of UN
workers said they had no access to training
provided by other organizations. All of the
responding government workers reported having
access to UN-organized training.
When asked what kind of ICT-related training
they felt was most needed, the majority pointed
to emergency ICT training (BGAN, VSAT,
SatPhone, radio), followed by Cisco product,
generic network training and the use of GIS.
Collaboration on ICT
When asked how effective ICT collaboration
with other NetHope members had been, 57%
of NetHope members said it had been very
effective, while 14% said it had been effective. As
for collaboration with the broader humanitarian
community, 42% said it had been somewhat
effective, 29% said it had been effective, and 14%
said it had not been effective.
At the same time, only a small number of UN
workers (7%) felt collaboration with NetHope
members had been rather effective, while 46%
said collaboration with the broader community
was effective.
This can be linked to the following result: 75% of
NetHope members attended NetHope Chapter
meetings but only 38% attended ETC meetings.
Only one UN worker reported having attended a
NetHope chapter meeting.
0 20 40 60 80 100
UN organizations that felt there
was no easy way to share
best ICT practices — 57%
NetHope member organizations
that felt there was no easy way
to share best ICT practices — 75%
© Save the Children
Issues Faced
Almost all of the response organizations
reported having issues with equipment being
stuck in customs. Some reported the Pakistan
customs being more restrictive about letting
donated equipment pass through than
equipment that had been purchased. In addition,
most NetHope members said there were delays
in donated NetHope equipment being sent to
When asked how they innovatively utilized ICTs
in the ood response, some organizations cited:
The use of USB modems and EVO wireless
Internet for mobile connectivity – allowing
reporting of food distribution to be captured
in remote areas.
VPN concentrators used to secure access to
Mobiles used as a secondary source to
access information.
Field ofces connected through low-cost
rewall equipment, allowing automatic
failover between VSATs and terrestrial links.
Leveraging volunteer technology groups
such as CrisisMappers to help with
information management.
The survey provided an overview of how
ICT use and information management were
carried out in Pakistan. It highlighted some
of the differences between the UN and NGO
communities. The survey’s initial results were
presented to the NetHope Pakistan Chapter.
Further, results of the survey were used to
formulate eld-visit discussions and identify
areas requiring further investigation.
© World Food Programme
the role of
ICT as part of
Initial services provided by IHP and TSF
The International Humanitarian Partnership is an
informal alliance between eight European donor
governments. It provides resources and staff to
assist the UN with some of the basic services
needed to run a humanitarian operation.
The IHP sent three ICT modules — from Norway,
Sweden and Denmark — to support the work of
UN OCHA in Pakistan. Each module contained
laptops, GPS, digital cameras and satellite
phones and was deployed with a technical
specialist. The chief purpose of the modules was
to provide ICT support to OCHA and enable the
team to establish basic communications, provide
Internet access and allow OCHA team members
to operate simultaneously in different locations
where ofces had yet to be established (IHP,
A team from TSF arrived in Pakistan on Aug. 9
with dual roles. One was to support UN OCHA
and other humanitarian organizations and
work with the ETC by providing ICT support to
coordination hubs — mainly the one in Multan,
Punjab Province. The other was to set up free
calling services for communities affected by the
oods. The free calling operations were done
by eight mobile two-person teams that were
deployed to more 90 locations where people
displaced by the oods had gathered. Within the
rst three weeks, they provided 2,840 affected
families with the ability to make phone calls.
While this effort was commendable, it benetted
only a small fraction of the 20+ million people
affected by the emergency.
Another important role TSF played was to
work with the ETC on assessments of the
state of the communications infrastructure
-- valuable information in areas where the
telecommunications or power infrastructure
that had failed because of the ooding. In other
areas, poor and rural, there are no existing or
efcient communication facilities. In areas where
GSM networks were operable, people often did
not have access to electricity to recharge their
phones, and in many cases simply lacked the
funds to get airtime credit.
Emergency Telecommunication Cluster
The ETC team in Pakistan worked with the
local ICT working group t assess the gaps and
requirements and to dene a project plan to
meet the inter-agency requirements which was
included in the United Nations’ 2010 Emergency
Response Plan (United Nations, 2010). Under this
plan the ETC’s role was to provide ICT support
to the humanitarian community in common
operational areas which changed during the
emergency. The nal operational areas for
data communications were Multan, Sukkur and
Hyderabad, and for security communications
were Sukkur, Multan, Hyderabad (UNDSS)
and Swat, D.I. Khan (UNHCR), which enabled
it to respond and operate effectively in ood-
affected areas.
To achieve these objectives, the ETC set the
following goals (United Nations, 2010):
To strengthen and establish HF and VHF
radio communications for the humanitarian
community in all common operational areas
This section details
the role ICTs played
during the humanitarian
response, beginning
with the initial response
by the International
Humanitarian Partnership
(IHP) and Telécoms
Sans Frontiéres (TSF).
It then examines
how the Emergency
Cluster (ETC) coordinated
efforts, primarily those of
the UN agencies, followed
by an overview of the
NetHope response and
the role played by the
local NetHope chapter in
across Pakistan.
To ensure a reliable Minimum Operating
Security Standards-compliant, very high
frequency/high frequency (VHF/HF) radio
network independent from the public
infrastructure in all affected areas.
To deploy data communications services
to the humanitarian community in ve new
locations in the affected areas.
To coordinate with the Pakistan government
an effort to upgrade the existing Pakistan
security telecommunications system in
seven common operational areas across the
To establish communications centers
(COMCENs) in seven new locations impacted
by the most recent oods.
To train humanitarian staff on the efcient
and appropriate use of telecommunications
equipment and services.
To deploy a dedicated ETC coordinator to
ensure that the needs of the humanitarian
community were being addressed.
The ETC dened the following indicators to
measure its impact and progress (United
Nations, 2010):
The percentage of UN agencies and NGOs
in the operational area provided with
telecommunications services.
The number of operational areas provided
with data communications services.
The information management facilities
established to serve the ETC community.
The number of UN agency and NGO staff
trained on the use of ETC-provided services.
In order to perform these services, the World
Food Program (WFP) appealed for $508,292
USD for the provision of data communication
and for providing ETC coordination to the
humanitarian community. UNHCR requested
additional $400,589 USD (ETC Cluster, 2010) to
provide security telecommunication services for
the ood-affected areas. However the project
was not fully funded and WFP’s ETC project only
received $230,000. With the reduced funding
and the changing operational requirements ETC
services also had to be reduced to be within the
available funds.
Activities of the Emergency
Telecommunication Cluster
In the rst week of August 2010, a dedicated
ETC coordinator arrived in Islamabad to enable
coordination among the various humanitarian
organizations. At the time, most of the
operations were taking place in the north, where
the UN already had a presence. Existing ETC
radio rooms were operating 24/7 to support
the efforts. UN ofces in the area were utilizing
connectivity either through existing VSATs or
through local ISPs. GSM networks were affected
by the oods and not very stabile.
As the oods surged south, the WFP ICT
amount of USD given to
World Food Programme’s
ETC project, which was
just 46% of their data
communication provision
team performed ICT assessments in the new
operational areas, while the UNHCR and UNDSS
ICT teams identied locations for new repeater
sites in those areas, with UNDSS actively
involved in the response particularly in the
south. An assessment of the mobile operator
services in Upper Swat Valley was made in
collaboration with CARE International’s ICT
team. As coordination hubs were established in
newly affected areas, the ETC team provided
ICT services to the UN community working
The ETC also organized an ICT Emergency
Management Field Training course in Islamabad,
which was delivered twice in the rst two
months of the response.
Some of the key challenges faced by the ETC
Delays in importation of telecommunication
Security conditions (UN Security Phase 4)
in some ood affected areas in the North
(Swat, etc.) limited access to international
staff which impacted the time to implement,
augment and support ICT services in these
Many of the impacted areas were also home
to terrorist insurgents and the Government
imposed rigorous travel restrictions,
which delayed travel of ICT staff into the
operational areas to establish and/or
augment ICT services. Frequently travel
required a military escort to be authorized.
The magnitude and sheer geographical
spread of the disaster.
The ETC coordination was centrally operated
in Islamabad, although ICT experts were sent
to the various provinces, primarily to establish
and maintain connectivity. The lack of ETC
coordination at the provincial level limited
collaboration with the extended humanitarian
As the 2010 survey revealed, NGOs generally
saw little value in attending coordination
meetings with the UN agencies, and thus there
was little collaboration between them.
© Olav A. Saltbones, Norwegian Red Cross
NetHope Response
NetHope activated the Global Emergency
Response Working Group in late July when
ooding in Pakistan reached a critical stage.
At the onset of the emergency, NetHope
gathered information in three ways — by
connecting to Emergency Telecom Cluster
briengs, by soliciting input from NetHope
member organizations at their headquarters, and
by connecting to the NetHope Pakistan Chapter,
which was formed in 2005.
NetHope’s response in Pakistan was
appropriately more limited than in other
emergencies because the communications
infrastructure was largely operational –
information was owing to shape the relief
effort. But the inux of humanitarian staff
responding to the emergency resulted in a
need for additional equipment such as laptops,
networking equipment and digital cameras.
NetHope facilitated the delivery of $250,000
USD worth of equipment during the emergency.
As events unfolded in Pakistan over the next
few months, NetHope continued to update
technology-sector partners about needs in the
country that represented an aggregation of
feedback from 15 agencies working in the region.
© Save the Children
the role of
This section looks at two
ICT-related volunteer
efforts during the relief
phase. The PakReport
effort focused on
creating a situational
awareness map based
on the Ushahidi platform.
Also vital was work done
by the CrisisCommons
community around the
world and by a digital
volunteer NGO called
Humanity Road.
Following the initial success of digital volunteer
efforts in Haiti (Meier & Munro, 2010), Ushahidi
became a popular platform for crowd-sourced
situational maps. Ushahidi is open-source
software developed for tracking geospatial and
temporal data. It was created during the Kenya
election violence in 2007 and has since been
used in a number of crises worldwide.
Shortly after the start of the oods, Faisal
Chohan, a TED fellow from Pakistan,
spearheaded a local effort to use a cloud-based
version of Ushahidi called CrowdMap to create
the Pakistan Flood Incident Reporting. With
assistance from the global volunteer technology
community, chiey Robert Munro and colleagues
in San Francisco, this then was linked to a
dedicated instance of Ushahidi residing at for greater exibility in
adapting the platform to local needs.
As in Haiti, a dedicated SMS short-code 3441
was created to allow people and organizations
to provide information directly into the system
(Hameedi, 2010). A total of 1,150 reports were
collected in the period ending in late January
2011. Of these, approximately two-thirds were
veried by volunteers (PakReport, 2011). This is
considerably fewer reports than were processed
in Haiti, though the SMS short-code was not
publicized in the same manner as in Haiti. Rather
than focusing on the public, they advertised the
short-code to humanitarian and relief workers
on the ground. There were far fewer volunteers
working on the Pakistan oods than on the Haiti
earthquake, resulting in fewer reports being
entered from social media and traditional media
A micro-tasking platform from the crowd-
sourcing company CrowdFlower was integrated
into PakReport to enable the information
processing to be coordinated and split into small
tasks that volunteers could focus on.
The aim of the PakReport site was to help
provide up-to-date and veried data from the
affected areas. Reports were sorted into the
following categories -- Water and Sanitation,
Health, Logistics, Camps, Shelter, Protection,
Vital Lines, Emergency and Service Available.
Volunteers who processed the information
reported that most of the content arriving
through SMS was outdated and that the best
sources of timely information were social media
reports from trusted individuals working in
affected areas.
Although visibility to humanitarian organizations
on the PakReport site was higher than on the
similar site for Haiti during the initial response
period, the PakReport site did not prove as
useful as it could have been. Among the reasons:
Lack of capacity within the humanitarian
community to deal with information
The absence of clear direction to volunteers
about what information was needed by the
humanitarian community.
The failure of short-code to work on all
mobile networks. The lesson learned: Short-
See the Pakistan
Flood Incident
Reporting at
A screenshot of http://
codes should be negotiated in advance with
mobile operators in disaster-prone countries.
Another stark difference between the efforts
in Haiti and Pakistan was that most of the
PakReport effort was led locally, with the global
technology volunteer community providing
Finally, links between the humanitarian
community and the volunteer community were
stronger than in previous disasters. This in turn
led the global volunteer community to formalize
its response offering toward the humanitarian
community in the form of the Volunteer Stand-
by Task Force, which was activated and proved
to be very useful in the Libya Crisis seven
months later.
The CrisisCommons community was activated
in August 2010 to help support relief efforts
in Pakistan. A number of CrisisCamps were
conducted from August through October
at eight different sites: London, Cambridge,
Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Silicon Valley,
Bangkok and Sydney.
Included was a global “Round The World
CrisisCamp” held Sept. 3-4, during which
activities were handed off to teams in different
time zones as the days passed.
At these CrisisCamps, the activities included:
Translating “How to run a CrisisCamp” into
Collecting and translating situational reports
in Urdu from social media and the Internet.
Translating situational awareness reports.
Collaborating with OpenStreetMaps on
coaching and mapping.
Connecting to existing projects such as
Adding reports to PakReport.
Creating and updating a Wikipedia page on
the oods.
Creating custom reports out of OCHA’s
Financial Tracking System.
Adding assessment reports in Sahana Eden.
Creating a list of resources for people
interested in volunteering for the Pakistan
relief effort.
Creating a step-by-step document on how to
use PakReport.
Processing data.
Providing coding support for PakReport
modications to the Ushahidi platform.
Promoting “Tweak the Tweet.”
Developing a tool to extract Latitude/
Longitude for locations.
As can be seen, the activities covered a
wide range and in most cases depended on
A screenshot of http://
the interest of the attendees at individual
CrisisCamps. Skype group chat sessions and
IRC channels were used to coordinate activities
among the camps.
CrisisCamps often are hosted by private sector
organization. For example, the Silicon Valley
camp was held at the ofces of Mozilla. In
addition to providing facilities, the company
encouraged a large number of its staff, including
executives, to participate – an approach that can
be encouraged at future CrisisCamps.
During the early days of the response, Andrej
Verity, an Information Management Ofcer for
UN OCHA deployed to Pakistan, reached out
to the volunteer community seeking help in
processing and visualizing data that UN OCHA
needed to provide better coordination. The
volunteer community, including developers from
private sector companies, was quick to respond
and the turnaround was short – one example of
how information management tasks during a
crisis can be outsourced to communities beyond
the affected area for processing, analysis and
The tenuous security situation in Pakistan
prompted discussion in the digital volunteer
community about how detailed information
curated by digital volunteers could potentially
be used against the very people it was trying
to serve. Some groups chose not to participate
in the effort because of their concerns. In
later crises, such as when the Libya Crisis Map
was created, this concern was addressed by
providing two layers of access, one direct and
detailed for humanitarian aid workers, and
another for the public with details omitted and
on a 24-hour delay.
The CrisisCommons community has a strong
volunteer spirit, and there is high interest among
its members to help during disasters. Similar
to donor interest, however, volunteer interest
during the Pakistan oods was signicantly
lower than in other recent disaster responses,
such as the one in Haiti. Going forward, the
humanitarian community can try to capture this
volunteer spirit by collaborating more closely
with the CrisisCommons community. In so doing,
the parties can create both ad-hoc and more
permanent solutions for many of the issues
faced by the humanitarian community.
Humanity Road
Humanity Road, an ICT-based digital volunteer
NGO, launched its Pakistan response on Aug.
16. It included an event page and social media
support in Twitter and Facebook, and also
collected and relayed urgent needs and ofcial
guidance in email. Meanwhile, Pakistan ofcials
were communicating with aid agencies and
the public via meetings and mainstream media,
with only a tiny fraction of their communication
taking place in social media.
The broad geographical impact of the oods
made for challenges in getting this information
to the isolated public. Smaller NGOs and
independent physicians and spontaneous local
volunteers were using Internet-based social
media on mobile devices at the local level to
reach out for help. Humanity Road analytics
show that the most commonly searched terms
used by the public when viewing its website
were ”Sindh Shelters” followed by “Find
Humanity Road volunteers identied, collected,
veried and routed urgent needs to agencies
that could meet those needs, while also
providing rst aid and health information, open
shelters and other online content to the public
through social media. The Provincial Disaster
Management Authority Government of Sindh
was updating its website to convey procedures
to the public and was a good source of
© Adbul Majeed Goraya, IRIN
the role of
private sector
ICT support
As in previous disasters, the
technology private sector
— particularly Google and
Microsoft — played a critical role
in supporting relief efforts in
Pakistan. This section details those
Google has become increasingly involved in
crisis response over the past few years and
now has a team that provides technology and
geospatial information support to humanitarian
organizations involved in response efforts
(Google, 2011). This project is an initiative of
Google.ORG, the philanthropic arm of Google.
During the Pakistan oods, Google’s assistance
was split into three areas:
Launch of a Pakistan version of its Person
Finder tool that helped people displaced by
the oods connect with loved ones.
Development of an experimental tool
called Resource Finder that provided an
aggregated overview of health facilities in
the country.
Sharing with UNOSAT the places and road
names generated by the Google MapMaker
community (UNOSAT, 2010).
The Person Finder tool was widely utilized. The
Resource Finder did not take off and its use by
the humanitarian community was limited, as
is often the case when new technologies are
introduced during a crisis. Sharing of MapMaker
data with the humanitarian community was
very useful and laid the groundwork for further
collaboration between UNOSAT and Google in
disaster response.
After a long history of providing local support,
Microsoft formalized a Disaster Response
Program focusing on providing information
and communication technology solutions and
expertise for governments and humanitarian
response organizations through a variety of
private and public partnerships. In response to
the Pakistan oods, Microsoft and its employees
donated more than $5 million in cash, software,
and technical assistance (Carlos, 2011) —
including a donation of software, portable
computers and cameras to NetHope. It also
donated software and training to the Pakistan
Humanitarian Forum and other NGOs working in
Microsoft Pakistan focused most of its efforts
in Punjab Province, where it worked with
Punjab’s Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz
Sharif, and the PDMA to identify and set up
a disaster response solution with Microsoft
partners, Geodan and ESRI Netherlands. The
solution, called Eagle, displays geospatial data
on a map along with relevant background
information to give users a common operational
picture in different locations. Geodan and
ESRI Netherlands donated the Eagle4Pakistan
solution and trained government ofcials to use
it, while Microsoft donated technical assistance
See the Person
Finder tool and
Resource Finder
at http://pakistan.
A screenshot of Google’s
Resource Finder.
of cash, software and
technical assistance was
donated by Microsoft and
its employees
and licenses.
To help the Pakistan government monitor
response and project spending, Microsoft
donated the Grants Accelerator solution, a
system originally designed for tracking Troubled
Asset Relief Program (TARP) stimulus funds in
the United States. This solution helps to provide
donors and the public with detailed information
on how donations are being spent.
Both the Eagle4Pakistan and Grants Accelerator
solutions are still in use by the Punjab
government as part of its long-term rebuilding
Additionally, Microsoft has partnered with
the Punjab government to organize Youth
Empowerment Workshops for young volunteers
from Punjab Province, who were actively
involved in ood relief efforts. The workshops,
which will be completed in September 2011,
train youth on topics including information and
communication technology (ICT), and others, to
help enhance skills needed for employment.
© Evert Meijer, Geodan/Eagle
the role of information
© Hira S. Malik
the role of
Having the right information is critical
to good decision-making and to
coordinating activities, yet often in
the crisis-managementeld, decisions
are made before the necessary
information has been collected,
analyzed and shared with appropriate
It is understood that decisions must be made based
on the best available information, yet situations
tend to change rapidly, and those changes can be
unpredictable and unforeseen (Kifayat, et al., 2010). It
is often impractical to wait for all relevant information
before making decisions in a crisis response, but
by disseminating information in a timely manner
highlighting priority needs, gaps and duplications
-- the humanitarian community can enhance
implementation of its response plans (United Nations,
Coordination can be improved through effective
information management -- leading to enhanced inter-
cluster coordination, enhanced national coordination
capacity and better planning, all of which serve to
support coherent, efcient and effective responses to
immediate and medium-term humanitarian needs and
early recovery (United Nations, 2010).
This section examines information management
by reviewing lessons learned from the 2005 study
detailed in the preceding chapter, and then by looking
at results from NetHope’s 2010 survey. Finally, the
section seeks to draw lessons from the various
challenges faced during the 2010ood response.
© Julie Denesha for Mercy Corps
the role of
from 2005
The study performed in 2005 for the
Emergency Capacity Building (ECB) project
(Currion, 2005) following the 2005 Kashmir
earthquake found the following positive points
about information management during the
Organizations that made information
management a priority developed better
solutions than those that did not.
While horizontal communication
between peers, both within and between
organizations, was in evidence, such
communication was not generally
considered a core part of an organization’s
work and thus received little organizational
Regular and open staff meetings were
identied as critical for sharing information
within an organization, ensuring that staff
had a clear picture of the organization’s
overall program.
In the eld, the most signicant means of
communicating information was verbal.
The 2005 study detailed the following issues:
That information owed vertically within
organizations, with very little focus on
improving horizontal or cross-organizational
information ow.
That the most common information
management tool – a situation report sent
to headquarters – generally did nothing to
help develop a common operational picture
among eld staff.
That eld staff generally recognized that
information management capacity was poor
within their respective agencies.
That managers believed information existed
but were challenged on how to extract and
organize it.
That rather than information overload, the
problem was information fragmentation.
That data was collected in too many ways,
lacking standardization -- often referred to
as the “Many Forms Syndrome.”
That situational awareness was limited
because of the size of the affected area,
with information quickly getting stuck
in silos at coordination hubs. Further,
the amount and frequency of shared
information varied greatly between hubs.
That working through local partners, as
many agencies did, created an additional
layer of separation from the situation in the
That at the beginning of any emergency
response, existing systems became
overwhelmed and agencies struggle to
acquire technology and systems, creating an
“information black hole.”
That existing corporate information
systems were unable to meet the needs of
emergency staff in the early stages of the
the role of
NetHope’s 2010 survey
included questions about
the role of information
sharing and management
in the relief efforts. This
section summarizes the
key ndings.
As made clear in the following
section, many of the ndings from
the survey following the Pakistan
oods in 2010 were similar
to those detailed in the post-
earthquake study in 2005.
Information Sharing
When looking at how people shared information
with others in their respective organizations, all
reported that email was the primary method.
When sharing with other organizations similar to
their own, email still was the preferred method
for NGOs, while verbal and social media were
preferred by 30% of UN workers. Members of
government agencies reported mostly using
verbal methods when sharing with other such
When asked whether their organization
provided specic information management
training, 46% of UN organizations afrmed they
had, while only 13% of NetHope organizations
did. Moreover, while 85% of UN workers said
they had people in the eld with GIS training,
none of the responding NetHope members said
they had GIS-trained people in the eld.
Social Media
Within the UN community, 67% of organizations
responding said they had eld workers who
blogged about their work, while only 17% of
NetHope members said they were blogging.
Among UN workers, 33% sent tweets from
the eld, while none of the NetHope members
reported using Twitter. About 17% of NetHope
members posted videos from the eld, while
22% of UN workers posted videos or podcasts.
Shared by using
Collaboration portals
Verbal forms of communication
NetHope UN
How NetHope organizations and the UN shared information with
the humanitarian community
Shared by using
Verbal forms of communication
Social media
Other (E-mail, paper, portals)
Percentage of times used
How information was shared with the affected population
Shared by using
Verbal forms of communication
Collaboration portals
Social media
Percentage of times used
How information was shared with the Pakistan government
Shared by using
Verbal forms of communication
Percentage of times used
How information was shared with the media
Podcast — 0%
Videos — 67%
Tweeting — 17%
Blogging — 67%
Social media use at NetHope
member organization headquarters
Podcast — 22%
Videos — 56%
Tweeting — 11%
Blogging — 33%
Social media use at UN headquarters
the role of
as part of the
The Pakistan government
provided initial information about
the disaster, such as the losses
and damages by district and
province. This, paired with initial
vulnerability assessments, was the
foundation as the humanitarian
community moved to coordinate
its efforts (UN Secretary General,
As can be expected in a large-scale disaster
such as the Pakistan oods, information ow
was massive, though due to many factors, much
of this information was not put to strategic use
(Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011). Among
the reasons:
An initial shortage of human resources
to handle inter-cluster coordination
and information management functions
hampered the response, especially at sub-
national levels (UN Secretary General, 2011).
Many clusters suffered from an initial lack
of dedicated information management
capacity that led to missed opportunities
for improving the efciency, effectiveness
and visibility of the humanitarian response
(United Nations, 2010).
Visibility and sharing of information between
clusters was problematic due in part to poor
performance by some of the clusters.
The various humanitarian actors (both
INGOs and UN agencies) carried out
numerous single-agency needs assessments
instead of focusing on joint assessments.
Exacerbating the problem, there were critical
discrepancies in methodologies used and
information gathered, making it difcult to
combine results from different assessments.
Data collection and analysis were severely
hampered by the lack of uniform and
standardized reporting formats. This was
especially true at the local and provincial
levels, where roles and responsibilities for
data reporting and sharing were poorly
dened (United Nations, 2010).
Information Management Capacity
As these issues became increasingly apparent,
the UN tried to address initial weaknesses
by deploying more qualied eld staff.
By November, more than 50 information
management specialists had been deployed
to Islamabad and the other coordination hubs.
Yet according to the UN, it was not enough
to simply improve information management
capacity within the UN; it also was crucial to
improve the capacity of government authorities
at the federal, provincial and district levels
(United Nations, 2010).
Further, the large number of cluster partners
made it critical to strengthen the information
ow and enable improved gap analysis of the
response – allowing for improved planning
and more effective monitoring of humanitarian
information management
specialists had been
One way the humanitarian community tried
to address these issues was to strengthen the
working groups responsible for information
management (IM) and geographical information
systems (GIS) in Pakistan (United Nations, 2010).
Through weekly meetings of these groups,
processes, work and data standards were
agreed upon. Without such standards – without
compatible and standardized information
— relief and early recovery activities were
more likely to be uncoordinated and based
on organizational priorities and assumptions
about the affected population’s needs (Polastro,
Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
Going forward, it is essential that the
humanitarian community drastically improve
worldwide information management capacity,
not only within the community itself, but
also in disaster-prone countries – a process
that will require standardized training and
Single Reporting Format
The IM and GIS working groups promoted a
single reporting format (SRF) in mid-January
2011 — almost six months into the response
– after delays caused by lack of consensus
between the Pakistan government (represented
by NDMA) and the Humanitarian Country Team
about the design (content, details, etc.). The SRF
is a web-based tool for monitoring interventions
and relief-item delivery. Data entered into the
system is available to the entire humanitarian
community and is intended to help ensure
transparency and accountability. The rollout of
this tool has been slower than expected and this
effort should be accorded a higher priority by
the NDMA and OCHA. It would be desirable that
a general SRF should be developed by OCHA
with the agreement of the other IASC members
that can be used in future emergencies.
Without a standardized report format, UN OCHA
lacked clear and consolidated information on the
various response organizations’ activities – there
was no precise data specifying what actions
had been taken, where and by whom. In some
clusters, attempts were made to address this by
gathering information at cluster meetings, thus
preventing the meetings from being used for
strategic programming (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen,
& Zafar, 2011).
This is not a new issue; many of the same
problems were identied in the response to the
2010 earthquake in Haiti. To move beyond the
current situation, the international community,
through the IASC and the global cluster
leadership, can agree upon a standardized
set of reporting formats that can be applied
in any disaster -- simple, effective forms that
organizations are willing to regularly ll in.
OCHA must provide dynamic and real-time-
derived information based on this, such as maps
showing who is doing what and where (3W).
Without such information, the humanitarian
community lacks a strategic overview and
therefore cannot prioritize assistance within
and across clusters. Without this integrated
information, there is no way to monitor results,
leading to lack of accountability toward
populations, peers and donors (Polastro, Nagrah,
Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
forward, it
is essential
that the
The focus on capacity building within the
Pakistan government has centered on the NDMA
and PDMA, but a key to making sure the new
SRF works is to provide additional support
and capacity building efforts to district-level
government partners (UN Secretary General,
Technology can play a key role in enhancing
situational awareness through a common
operational picture (COP). There have been
improvements over the past few years in the
national and local government emergency
operation centers (EOCs) of various developed
countries. The international community’s
mandate is to build upon these successes and
employ some of the new technological efforts
that improve situation overview and operations.
The volunteer community has tried —
through efforts such as Ushahidi or the
Stand-by Volunteer Task Force (http://blog. — to look at data
coming from the humanitarian community,
and to combine it with data from affected
communities and the media. Such efforts
can provide an even more detailed common
operational picture for the humanitarian
community in its decision making and strategic
Needs assessments
Early in the ood emergency, the WFP VAM
team in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the
Multi-Cluster Rapid Assessment Mechanism
(MCRAM) performed two needs assessments.
The MCRAM — established in Pakistan in 2008
— focused on four districts in the province.
The Assessment Working Group (AWG),
suggested by the UNDAC, was established to
help coordinate joint assessments at the national
These efforts helped initially, but as the
emergency grew, the various humanitarian
actors carried out their own, single-agency
needs assessments. When asked (Polastro,
Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011) why they
performed single-agency assessments instead
of multi-agency joint efforts, and why they
had not shared this information with the rest
of the humanitarian community, they gave the
following reasons:
They needed data that was relevant only to their
organization’s response planning.
They gathered data that was not disaggregated
and therefore had limited use in local-level
That joint assessments took too long, and that
when results were ready, the situation on the
ground had already changed.
It is understandable that organizations, when
they can’t reasonably expect the broader
humanitarian community to deliver information
in a timely manner, would perform their own
assessments before taking action. Yet in
general terms, it is crucial that single-agency
assessments follow standardized methodologies
and ensure that data is collected in formats
that can be shared with the broad humanitarian
community. In Pakistan, differences in formats
Find out more
about the Stand-
by Volunteer
Task Force at
and methodologies made it difcult to obtain a
clear situational overview, which in turn led to
uncoordinated assistance. Moreover, different
methodologies can result in competing information
– such as the number of affected people and their
needs -- being presented by the various response
organizations. This was particularly true with
numbers given out by government authorities and
the humanitarian partners – numbers that seldom
tallied up and created confusion at operational
levels (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
With each organization performing its own
assessment, populations often were consulted
multiple times – without getting what they needed,
or without an explanation for why certain needs
were met while others were not (Polastro, Nagrah,
Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
Technology can play an important role in making
assessment data available to a broader community.
Intelligent assessment design software can ensure
that key disaggregation of data is being done,
and that data is being collected in a standardized
format (e.g. age distribution groups dened the
same way).
Technology also can play a crucial role in ensuring
data becomes available for analysis quicker than
before. In many instances, survey questionnaires
are lled out on paper but, due to lack of
operational personnel, never get entered into a
digital format. It is essential that the move from
paper-based assessments to digital assessments is
made as quickly as possible.
© Syed Haider, World Health Organization
the role of
with the
Evaluations of previous disasters
in Pakistan (Cosgrave & Herson,
2008) and elsewhere (Wall
& Robinson, 2008) stressed
the importance of having the
beneciaries — the affected
communities — involved in the
humanitarian response, and it can
be instructive to see how such
sharing of information can affect
the response itself.
Among the organization responding to the 2010
oods were some that focused on beneciary
communications — such as Internews, IRIN,
AlertNet, ReliefWeb and CDAC — and provided
support to local radio stations in the hardest-
hit areas. They helped local journalists deliver
reports on the devastation, and helped them
share information with affected communities
about work being done by the humanitarian
Even with these efforts, communication with
affected communities was very limited and
many people were not properly informed about
what they were expected to receive, when,
from whom and for how long (Polastro, Nagrah,
Steen, & Zafar, 2011).
The potential for more-effective beneciary
communication is high. Communication can be
improved by utilizing radio stations for broad
messaging, and mobile technology to provide
a feedback loop from affected communities.
Further, the humanitarian community can agree
on a simple but clear communications strategy
to avoid misunderstandings and abuse. Such
a strategy must fully involve the local civil
society and NGOs in the process to ensure
wide dissemination (Polastro, Nagrah, Steen,
& Zafar, 2011). Multiple channels are needed
to disseminate information — through press
releases, information bulletins shared with
local media, social networks, mobile networks
(through SMS broadcasting) and websites.
Early warning
Floods are the most frequent and recurring
natural disasters (46%), consuming up to one-
third of humanitarian aid and accounting for
78% of all people affected by natural disasters
– but there is no systematic, global or timely
monitoring system. It is difcult to monitor
oods globally because they are determined by
local factors such as precipitation, slope of the
terrain, drainage of the river, protection devices
in place, etc. Each river must be monitored at
various places along its course (De Groeve &
Riva, 2009).
Pakistan has a ood monitoring and observation
system in place, but it lacks early-warning
facilities to disseminate alerts to communities
(ESCAP, 2010). By and large, the public was
unaware of ood response strategies and what
was expected of them. A comprehensive early-
warning system can improve the community’s
understanding and enhance its capacity to take
precautions and take action. Such a system
is highly needed, but is not being addressed
because of budget and political issues (Mustafa
& Wrathall, 2011).
are the
Even a highly developed country like the United
States could not effectively warn and evacuate
masses of people during Hurricane Katrina. With
its limited resources, Pakistan cannot rely on
evacuation as the only precautionary method
(Cedar, 2011). It is therefore important to build a
people-centric and community-driven approach
to early warning.
During eld visits in Pakistan, NetHope members
met with residents of affected communities
as well as local NGOs who provided insights
into how people used technology to develop
an ad-hoc early warning system. A common
complaint was that the government failed to
give early warning. Instead, residents listened
to news on the radio of oods ravaging areas
north of them, and then used mobile phones to
call friends and relatives living farther upriver to
learn more about the oods’ severity. This use of
cell phones and radios can be encouraged as a
conduit for emergency information and warning
(Mustafa & Wrathall, 2011).
According to the local NGO in Sindh province,
communities there had in recent years received
disaster risk-reduction training in the form
of videos played on a laptop that was taken
to remote villages lacking electricity. Other
research conrmed that these communities had
“weathered the oods better than those without
disaster preparedness skills. For example,
despite inaccurate ofcial ood reports, the
communities closely monitored water levels and
thus were able to predict that the scale of the
ooding would be far worse than in previous
years. They also had established direct lines
of communication with ood authorities, had
invested in materials to help protect their homes
and belongings, thereby minimizing damage,
and had sound evacuation plans in place.”
(Thomas & Rendón, 2010).
The use of mobile networks (SMS)
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
started, in collaboration with all mobile
operators, a fundraising campaign called “1234”
that allowed people to utilize SMS services for
donations to the ood relief activities (the Prime
Minister’s Flood Relief Fund, 2010). By sending
the text “FUND” as an SMS to the number 1234,
10 Rupees were contributed toward the relief
fund (Faheem, 2010).
Save the Children piloted a program in early
August 2010 that allowed affected communities
to make voice calls or send an SMS text
message to a hotline. Affected communities in
three ood-stricken provinces used the hotline
to make complaints or offer suggestions relating
to Save the Children’s work. In the rst three
months of the service, scores of people had
used it, and in so doing were granted a voice in
the relief efforts (Save the Children, 2010).
The helpline identied issues that were later
addressed, including reported fraud, lack of
drinking water and staff behavior. Dedicated
staff carried hotline-dedicated mobile phones,
logged all complaints and followed up within
24 hours. The pilot was so successful, it was
extended to cover all areas where Save the
Children worked.
where a SMS with the
text “FUND” was sent to
donate 10 Rupees to the
relief fund.
Twitter/Social Media
Since the Haiti earthquake, the use and potential
for crowd-sourcing information aggregation
and processing during disasters and mass
emergencies has received a great deal of media
attention (Starbird, 2011).
Especially during the rst couple of weeks in
Pakistan, vast numbers of users tweeted about
the oods. The hash tag #Pakistan became the
top trend on July 28, when a plane crashed near
Islamabad. Trafc tapered off over the next
couple of weeks (see graph from Trendestic),
but on Aug. 16, the hash tag #Pakistan again
reached the top-10 list of trending subjects as
people began to comprehend the scope of the
devastation and the amount of help required
from the rest of the world (Rezwan, 2010).
The types of messages being tweeted fell into
four general categories:
Stories and images of the ood victims.
Flood information.
Donation drives.
Information on rescue and relief efforts.
became a top trend on
July 28
summary of key
© Julie Denesha for Mercy Corps
summary of
key ndings
In this section, this
report’s key technology-
related ndings are
Technology landscape
Pakistan is a technologically advanced country
compared to other developing countries with a
similar GDP. In particular, there is high mobile-
phone penetration and Internet connectivity in
major cities.
Scale of the disaster
The oods precipitated one of the largest
disasters of this century in both number of
affected people and size of the affected area.
This, combined with the fact many organizations
were still heavily tied up in Haiti, led to a
shortage of qualied staff.
National capacity
There was a critical lack of information
management and coordination capacity in
many of the provincial disaster management
authorities, especially those in the south where
international organizations had not previously
been active. These provincial authorities also
lacked ICT capacity in both resources and
Lack of information sharing and
coordination between national,
provincial and district levels
Information sharing between different levels of
government was quite limited and resulted in
poor coordination between them.
Provincial government disconnected
from coordination hubs
Since provincial coordination hubs were set
up close to affected areas, these often were
far removed from provincial capitals, where
provincial disaster management authorities
were located. There was little to no usage of
communication technology to help address this
Information management capacity
stretched to the limits
By establishing provincial coordination hubs,
information management resources were
stretched to their limits, both from a personnel
and equipment perspective. Worldwide capacity
in these areas is limited, and those limits were
magnied because of major simultaneous
emergencies in Haiti and Pakistan.
Cluster participation
Participation in clusters, both at the provincial
and national levels, was limited, especially
after the rst few weeks. Many organizations
felt there was insufcient value in attending
meetings or sharing information.
Methods of information sharing
The key methods of information sharing in the
humanitarian community were email and verbal
communication. When sharing information with
the Pakistan government, the main method was
verbal, followed closely by printed documents.
Lack of a common operational picture
Due to insufcient sharing of information,
and because information was presented in
different formats and collected via different
methodologies, it became difcult to create a
common operational picture for those working
on the ood response.
Lack of data standards
While many data standards exist, there is a need
for agencies to use them systematically and to
extend this to cover standard ways of collecting
additional information about the situation and
the response, which would overcome the lack
of ability to integrate information from multiple
Method of connectivity
While most NGOs relied upon local ISPs for
connectivity, the UN agencies and the ETC also
made extensive use of local ISPs when services
were available but also relied upon VSAT as
backup or to meet short-term peeks. Smaller
local NGO implementation partners often relied
on GPRS for connectivity.
Emergency ICT expert roster
While rosters of ICT experts are common in
the UN, only one-third of NetHope member
organizations had such a roster in place.
Donated ICT equipment
Particularly in the NGO community, donated
equipment such as laptops was very useful,
allowing for funding to be directed toward direct
beneciary aid, and also for more appropriate
equipment — laptops instead of desktops — to
be used.
Emergency ICT skills
There was a vast discrepancy in access to
emergency ICT skills training between UN
organizations and NGOs. While two-thirds of UN
workers had access, only 15% of NGO workers
had access.
ICT coordination
While coordination inside the various
humanitarian communities seemed to be strong,
coordination between the communities —
NetHope and UN — was very limited.
Information management training
There was a glaring lack of information
management training within both the
NetHope and UN communities. This has since
been recognized by the IASC and the IASC
Information Management Task Force has taken
the rst steps to address this by developing
an information management distance learning
program to assist clusters in having staff trained
on information management concepts and
coordination structures.
Volunteer efforts
Volunteer-driven ICT efforts were prevalent in
previous emergencies, but due to lack of formal
integration with the humanitarian community,
these efforts did not produce as much value in
Pakistan as they could have.
Private sector efforts
The private technology sector was quite active
in Pakistan, providing technology solutions
and information services. A more coordinated
approach is needed to enhance the value of
such support.
Lack of information sharing among
humanitarian organizations
Humanitarian organizations did not effectively
share information with each other. The same
held true for sharing with local authorities.
Organizations perceived little value in doing so.
Activity reporting format
The UN OCHA lacked clear and consolidated
information about the activities of the various
response organizations. It took almost six
months before a common approach to activity
reporting was agreed upon and implemented.
Needs assessments
Although some initial joint-agency needs
assessments were successful, most
organizations reverted to doing their own
assessments and seldom shared the results with
the broader community. Due to incompatibility
in methodologies and data formats, integrating
results was virtually impossible.
Communicating with affected
Although some success was achieved in
communicating with affected communities via
radio and other media, there is room for much
improvement in this area.
Disaster risk reduction training
Communities that had received computer-based
training on disaster risk reduction before the
oods fared better than communities that had
not received such training.
Use of SMS hotlines as a monitoring
and evaluation tool
Save the Children piloted a successful SMS
hotline that allowed beneciaries to report
suggestions and issues. This became a very
valuable M&E tool that other organizations could
easily replicate.
© Save the Children
This section examines
ways to address some
of the critical issues
identied following the
2010 oods in Pakistan.
In particular, the authors
recommend the following actions:
Build information management
It is essential that the humanitarian community
drastically improve information management
capacity, not only within the community itself,
but also within local disaster management
authorities in disaster-prone countries.
Standardized training and methodologies should
be created and made available. Training must
be provided to a large number of people, both
within the humanitarian community and outside
of it. It is essential that the donor community
quickly address this shortcoming and focus
on building information management capacity
worldwide. As part of that process, the donor
community should take steps to persuade the
main actors in the cluster leadership that such
capacity is essential.
In disaster-prone countries, donors should
help to build information management and ICT
capacity within disaster management authorities
at the national, provincial and district levels.
Increase the involvement of digital
volunteer communities
There has been tremendous growth in digital
volunteer communities — such as Crisis Mappers
or the Stand-by Volunteer Task Force — that
have tried to address the absence of a common
situational overview and operational picture
in recent disasters. With a large number of
disasters occurring globally each year, the focus
should be on building local capacity rather than
driving efforts from a global level.
It is recommended that awareness building and
training in new open-source tools and processes
be provided in disaster-prone countries.
Training should be delivered to humanitarian
organizations in these countries as well as to
interested civil society groups. Attempts should
be made to strengthen local digital volunteer
groups, for example as part of local NGOs
such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent National
Global digital volunteer communities can serve
as mentors to — and provide surge capacity for
— these local digital volunteer groups. Through
standardized training and methodologies, it can
be ensured that people from different countries
can work together as one community.
Use conference-call services to
improve cluster participation
A common complaint, in both Pakistan and Haiti,
was that too much time was spent traveling
to and from cluster meetings, thus limiting the
willingness of organizations to participate. While
it understandably can be difcult to provide
conference-call services for cluster meetings
in the rst few days and weeks of a disaster
response, it should be possible to do so within
the rst 30 days.
It is recommended that one of two options be
put in place for disaster-prone countries: Either
existing in-country conference-call services
should be set up in advance of disasters,
or if these are unavailable, the Emergency
Telecommunication Cluster should work with
private-sector technology companies to provide
a solution-in-a-box for this purpose.
Implement scalable connectivity
The humanitarian community needs to look
more openly at utilizing different connectivity
solutions for different environments. Using
VSAT as the preferred way to connect is not
always the most effective and economical
method. In countries where there is a strong ISP
presence, and where services have not been
severally affected by the disaster, humanitarian
organizations should attempt to leverage these
services. This has been the strategy of ETC and
NetHope and should be more broadly extended
across humanitarian organizations.
The same is true for mobile data networks. With
most countries moving toward a 3G wireless
broadband mobile network, it is becoming
economical and quite easy to provide rapid
connectivity with high levels of bandwidth to
remote locations. We have seen that mobile
networks are becoming more resilient to large-
scale disasters, with core services generally
being available within two weeks of a major
It therefore is recommended that humanitarian
organizations consider a wider scale of
connectivity solutions. It is more economical
and easier to stockpile and transfer 3G modems
than VSAT kits, though to do so, humanitarian
organizations must have agreements with
mobile operators to get quick access to 3G SIM
cards when disasters strike.
Develop standard ICT assessment
There is a crying need for the humanitarian
community, as well as the technology
private sector, to agree upon a standardized
methodology for performing ICT capacity
assessments in affected areas. By agreeing to
do so, ICT experts can be trained to perform
assessment in affected areas and thereby
provide a comprehensive and common overview
of ICT capacity.
Create a shared ICT services catalogue
The humanitarian community and private sector
service providers should work to create a joint
global ICT services catalogue that gives a
comprehensive overview of what ICT services
are available and from whom. In disaster-prone
countries, work should be done to create local
versions of this catalogue.
Making such a catalogue available to the entire
humanitarian community can foster better
collaboration while reducing duplication in areas
in which similar services are offered by more
than one party.
Work is already under way within the ETC to
create this kind of a shared catalogue and is
intended to be endorsed in late 2011 or early
Standardize operating procedures for multi-hub
coordination and information sharing
When the extent of a disaster is so great that
multiple coordination hubs become necessary,
it is vital that there are clear and standard
operating procedures for how coordination and
information sharing are to take place between
the various hubs and the national level.
Procedures and methodologies should address
the kind of information to be shared within a
hub, and what information should be shared
between hubs and the national coordination
hub. Technical support can be created once
these processes are clear.
Make the process of sharing
information within clusters more
valuable for participants
As identied earlier, organizations have been
reluctant to share information with clusters
because they perceive little value in doing so.
This can be addressed in a number of ways.
First, it’s important that the clusters’ information
management capacity be greatly improved,
both with more eld-trained staff, but also by
providing information management capacity
remotely. Second, information management
staff members must shift their focus to more
productive activities than maintaining contact
lists and up-to-date meeting schedules. Third,
data shared by cluster members should be
shared in a consistent format, eliminating the
need for re-formatting of captured data.
Finally, through leveraging remote digital
volunteer communities, such as academic
communities, much more detailed analysis can
be performed on the shared data. This analyzed
information provides value back to those sharing
data. By presenting this analyzed information in
a visually appealing manner, all parties can work
more strategically with the data.
Standardize data formats and
Data formats and templates should be made
public, translated into various languages and
actively promoted toward line ministries in
disaster-prone countries. With standardized
templates, it becomes possible for technology
companies and volunteer communities to help
develop solutions that can be used to collect
and share information.
This extends to data collected through needs
assessments. It is essential that the entire
humanitarian community promote simple,
effective ways of gathering information from
affected populations about their situations and
needs. Technology can play an important role in
making assessment data available to a broader
community. Intelligent assessment design
software can ensure that key disaggregation
of data is performed, and that data is collected
in a standardized format (for example, age
distribution groups are always dened the same
Build ICT capacity within local
implementation partners
It is common practice for many international
humanitarian organizations to work with local
NGOs as their implementation partners. The ICT
capacity of these NGOs is often very limited,
however, and donors are can be reluctant to help
improve it because they see ICT equipment as
assets rather than tools.
It is important that ICT capacity be improved in
international humanitarian organizations, and that
the needs of local implementation partners are
addressed in the process. When the technology
community is encouraged to contribute in-kind
donations of equipment to relief efforts, the
needs of these partners also should be included
in the appeals.
Laptops are an important resource for performing
services such as program design or monitoring
and evaluation. It is recommended that the donor
community stop looking at laptops as material
assets that cannot be procured as part of project
Use laptops instead of desktop
In disaster environments and in many developing
countries, electricity is a scarce and valuable
commodity. In places such as Pakistan, electrical
uctuations and blackouts can cause electricity
to go out without warning. These blackouts can
result in data loss and corruption for desktop
computer users, who could avoid such issues if
they used laptops. However, local implementation
partners and eld ofces use desktops because
they are less expensive than laptops.
The use of laptop computers should be
encouraged within the broad humanitarian
community, and donors should be educated in
the need to provide funding sufcient to procure
laptops instead of desktops.
© International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies
Adopt new approaches to early
The humanitarian community, the technology
and communication sector, and governments
in disaster-prone countries should make a
coordinated and comprehensive effort to drive
new approaches to providing early warning
information to at-risk communities.
As mobile phone ownership and the use of
social networks and social media continue to
grow exponentially, it is important that new
approaches to early warning systems leverage
these changes.
NetHope recommends that a consortium
of humanitarian organizations, technology
companies, governments in disaster-prone
countries, and donors to be formed and work
toward making dramatic improvements in this
Use short-codes for crowd-generated
To improve the speed at which crowd-generated
information can be made available to the
humanitarian community, short-codes should
provide pre-established information to those
in disaster-prone countries before disasters
strike. Such an approach allows for awareness
building among citizens before a disaster hits
and ensures that the system for capturing these
messages is in place before the emergency.
It is recommended that the humanitarian
community and the digital volunteer community
under the guidance of the International
Telecommunications Union (ITU) approach the
GSMA — the worldwide association of mobile
operators — to put in place the infrastructure
and agreements needed in the key disaster-
prone countries of the world.
Improve collaboration between ICT
workers at the local level
Emergency ICT collaboration among UN
organizations and NGOs must be greatly
improved. It is recommended that an ETC
coordinator designated by the UN and an
ETC NGO coordinator be established in each
medium- and large-scale emergency. The NGO
ETC coordinator’s role would be to ensure
that services and information are being shared
between the two communities. To make this
possible, funding should be sought for the UN
ETC coordinator and the NGO ETC coordinator.
Be prepared
We must never forget that everything done
before a disaster makes us better prepared to
deal with the emergency itself. It is essential
that the humanitarian community focus on
preparedness activities, especially when it
comes to the use of ICTs and the management
of information. The donor community should
put more of its focus on supporting projects
and efforts that help improve preparedness, for
example through capacity building.
© Olaf Saltbones, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies
conclusion There are a number of ways in which information technology
and improvements in information management could have
enhanced relief efforts in Pakistan, yet apart from the
use of broadband, the humanitarian community’s use of
technology had changed very little in the six years since
the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. New and innovative ways of
utilizing social media, mobile networks and crowd-sourcing
met a difcult resistance from the humanitarian community.
Often this resistance was due to lack of capacity within the
community itself to deal with basic information management
It is essential that we leverage improvements in connectivity
to move some of these capacity issues from the eld into
locations that have sufcient bandwidth and personnel to
work on more complex analytical issues. At the same time,
we must leverage the power of crowds of digital volunteers
to help with easier, mundane tasks. To do this, we must move
toward open data standards and implement processes that
allow us to scale our efforts in these new ways.
While humanitarian response organizations have adopted
various aspects of ICT into their daily operations, there is
great variance between these organizations and an overall
lack of interoperability between developed systems.
Websites, portals, wikis, blogs and social networking sites
have revolutionized the way information is shared within
organizations and, in some cases, have helped broaden
the scope of external information dissemination (Harvey,
Stoddard, Harmer, Taylor, Didomenico, & Brander, 2010).
Climate change and urbanization are expected to rapidly
expand the scale of disasters (Okazaki, et al., 2010), and
the humanitarian community – with its operating budgets
imperiled by the economic crisis – could struggle to keep up.
It is therefore important that the humanitarian community
start reaping some of the benet of the information
revolution to enhance and scale its operations even further.
Given the high cost of adopting new technologies and
adapting solutions for use within the humanitarian
community, collaboration across the community is essential.
Through broader collaboration, it will become easier to
involve private sector technology industries and gain
their support in creating solutions to the many problems
encountered in relief operations around the world.
Through a consolidated effort by the broad humanitarian
community, the private sector, governments in disaster-
prone countries, and the donor community, we can take
enormous steps forward in the ways in which technology
enhances humanitarian operations worldwide.
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... This acute need for information exchange, for both rescue organization and victims, requires the set up of temporary communication solutions until the regular infrastructure is functioning again. A study by Gisli Olafsson [1] on how ICT played a role in the 2011 Pakistan flood response and how information management was utilized during the response concludes that nothing much has evolved since 2005 (and the response to the Pakistan earthquake). Only connectivity has improved but only slightly. ...
In the event of a disaster, the communication infrastructure can be partially or totally destroyed, or rendered unavailable due to high congestion. However, during such crisis situations, there is an acute need for information exchange for both rescue organizations and victims. Temporary communication solutions are thus of utmost importance until the infrastructure is restored. In this paper, we start by reviewing communication solutions – stemming from 30 years of research on ad hoc, mesh and delay-tolerant networks – able to uphold communications during disasters when the communication infrastructure is destroyed, overloaded or not existing in the first place. We present how these solutions can be applied and summarize the advantages and disadvantages of each unique approach. In a second part, we present, Twimight, a Twitter application relying on delay-tolerant opportunistic commu-nications to spread tweets and sensor data in an epidemic fashion. Twimight is an open source Twitter client for Android phones fea-tured with a "disaster mode", which users enable upon losing con-nectivity. In the disaster mode, tweets are not sent to the Twitter server but stored on the phone, carried around as people move, and forwarded opportunistically when in proximity with other phones. Eventually, we demonstrate how opportunistic technologies such as Twimight can be of great value right after a disaster by enabling the self-organization of victims and a better coordination with first rescue organizations. We discuss the main challenges to overcome and provide directions for future research both non-technical (e.g. user adoption of technology) and technical (e.g. security and data privacy).
... They enable relief organisations and agencies to collaborate and so avoid gaps and overlaps in the concerted response, coordinate emergency services personnel, request aid from medics and victims to contact missing family/friends. A study by Olafsson on how technology played a role in the 2011 Pakistan flood response and how information management was utilised during the response concludes that techniques have not significantly evolved since 2005 and the response to the Pakistan earthquake [7]. Only connectivity has improved, and even that just slightly. ...
Conference Paper
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In recent disaster events, social media has proven to be an effective communication tool for affected people. The corpus of generated messages contains valuable information about the situation, needs, and locations of victims. We propose an approach to extract significant aspects of user discussions to better inform responders and enable an appropriate response. The methodology combines location based division of users together with standard text mining (term frequency inverse document frequency) to identify important topics of conversation in a dynamic geographic network. We further suggest that both topics and movement patterns change during a disaster, which requires identification of new trends. When applied to an area that has suffered a disaster, this approach can provide 'sensemaking' through insights into where people are located, where they are going and what they communicate when moving.
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The 2010 floods exacerbated Pakistan's lingering domestic weaknesses including fraught civil-military relations, perilous economic conditions, and the ineptitude of the civilian government. While a military coup is unlikely anytime soon, army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani continues to consolidate his personal power, despite his cultivated democratic credentials, and that of the army, at the expense of the civilian leadership. The differences in the strategic interests of Pakistan and the U.S. seem stark, especially as the latter seeks to develop an exit strategy that would permit a cessation of its military action in Afghanistan.
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This paper describes some of the recent efforts to use crowdsourcing for various information processing tasks during disasters and mass emergencies. It highlights several projects that were deployed during the early aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, including one that my colleagues and I helped to launch, Tweak the Tweet. I relate how our deployment efforts and subsequent research on Tweak the Tweet revealed the presence of digital volunteers acting as a layer of human computation in an ad-hoc response community. I discuss the motivations of digital volunteers during disaster, which mirror long-recognized phenomena in human social behavior, and may differ from crowdsourcing efforts in other domains.
Full-text available
The great flood of 2010 in Pakistan was not an accidental, unpredictable and random episode in the hydrologic development of the Indus basin, but rather a by-product of national decisions on water use, integrally linked, as well, to the design of the social landscape. In immediate and mid terms, acute impacts are expected to be concentrated among households with fragile and sensitive livelihoods. To attenuate an evolving low-level humanitarian, social and political crisis, and to prevent backsliding to Pakistan’s development progress, attention should focus on water drainage and rapid rehabilitation of farmland. Local government structures can be engaged in the distribution and implementation of recovery programs. In Pakistan, the hydrological priorities have always been irrigation and power generation, but in the interest of preventing a costly recurrence, Pakistani flood management and early alert systems require structural revision.
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The present study explains the various concepts used in disaster management. The concepts explained include: Disaster, Hazard, Vulnerability, Capacity, Risk and Disaster Management Cycle. In addition to the terminologies, the study also seeks to explain various types of disasters. It also gives a detail of various disasters occurred in Pakistan as well their management and mitigation strategies. The paper also discusses disaster management policy at national level as well as disaster management and national plans in Pakistan.
: The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the use of text messaging and crisis mapping in disaster response by drawing on Haiti as a case study. We first describe the design and deployment of the system. Next we outline what worked and did not work. We then consider the organizational and institutional implications of this response and articulate some policy recommendations. Finally, we outline the need for an SMS Code of Conduct for Disaster Response and propose one for consideration by the humanitarian community.
Helping Governments Recover from Disasters: Microsoft and Partners Provide Technology and Other Assistance Following Natural Disasters in Haiti and Pakistan . (Microsoft Corporation) Retrieved 06 22
  • A Carlos
Carlos, A. (2011, 03 21). Helping Governments Recover from Disasters: Microsoft and Partners Provide Technology and Other Assistance Following Natural Disasters in Haiti and Pakistan. (Microsoft Corporation) Retrieved 06 22, 2011, from Microsoft Case Studies: aspx?CaseStudyID=4000009431
Information and Technology Requirements Initiative -Assessment Report: Pakistan Earthquake Response
  • P Currion
Currion, P. (2005). Information and Technology Requirements Initiative -Assessment Report: Pakistan Earthquake Response. Emergency Capacity Building Project.