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Demystifying machine learning for disaster risk management

Giuseppe Molinario's picture

To some, artificial intelligence is a mysterious term that sparks thoughts of robots and supercomputers. But the truth is machine learning algorithms and their applications, while potentially mathematically complex, are relatively simple to understand. Disaster risk management (DRM) and resilience professionals are, in fact, increasingly using machine learning algorithms to collect better data about risk and vulnerability, make more informed decisions, and, ultimately, save lives.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are used synonymously, but there are broader implications to artificial intelligence than to machine learning. Artificial (General) Intelligence evokes images of Terminator-like dystopian futures, but in reality, what we have now and will have for a long time is simply computers learning from data in autonomous or semi-autonomous ways, in a process known as machine learning.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)’s Machine Learning for Disaster Risk Management Guidance Note clarifies and demystifies the confusion around concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Some specific case-studies showing the applications of ML for DRM are illustrated and emphasized. The Guidance Note is useful across the board to a variety of stakeholders, ranging from disaster risk management practitioners in the field to risk data specialists to anyone else curious about this field of computer science.

Machine learning in the field

In one case study, drone and street-level imagery were fed to machine learning algorithms to automatically detect “soft-story” buildings or those most likely to collapse in an earthquake. The project was developed by the World Bank’s Geospatial Operations Support Team (GOST) in Guatemala City, and is just one of many applications where large amounts of data, processed with machine learning, can have very tangible and consequential impacts on saving lives and property in disasters.

The map above illustrates the “Rapid Housing Quality Assessment”, in which the agreement between ML-identified soft-story buildings, and those identified by experts is shown (Sarah Antos/GOST).

Holding up half the sky—and some blogs

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture


Pexels | rawpixels.com

Bloggers write to share unique insights. They may want to simply share knowledge, push an issue forward, establish thought leadership, and in some cases drive business.

Bloggers also create community. For example, this blog platform reaches a subscribed community (25K in number!) interested in infrastructure finance, PPPs, and the use of guarantees to spur private-sector investments—especially in developing countries. With niche topics like this, a blogspace becomes a virtual gathering place where we can exchange war stories, spectacular examples, best practices, trends, and opinions. We can know that others care about the same topics. We can also blog to shape the demographics of discourse and raise specific voices.

The gender gap in the disaster risk management sector: why it matters

Caren Grown's picture
 

Over the past decade, the practice of disaster risk management (DRM) has evolved and matured.  From mainly focusing on disaster response, local and international actors alike now emphasize the importance of preparedness and prevention – saving lives and avoiding losses even before disaster strikes.

What if we could use nature to prevent disasters?

Brenden Jongman's picture
 

Heavy rain and severe flooding brought the city of Colombo, Sri Lanka, to its knees. In China’s Yangtze River Basin, rivers spilled their banks, inundating towns and villages. In Mobile Bay, Alabama, strong ocean waves carried away valuable coastline.

In each of these locations, disasters caused by natural hazards seemed beyond human control. But instead of focusing only on building more drains, seawalls and dams, these governments turned to nature for protection from the disasters. Several years later, the urban wetlands, oyster reefs and flood plains they helped establish are now keeping their citizens safe while nourishing the local economies.

Commodity prices rose modestly in February–Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture

Energy commodity prices increased nearly 5 percent in February, led by oil (+8 percent), the World Bank’s Pink Sheet reported.

Non-energy prices gained 2 percent, in response to large price increases in metals and minerals.

Agricultural prices changed little, as increases in food and raw material prices (+0.5 percent each) were balanced by declines in beverages (-1.3 percent).

Fertilizer prices declined more than 2 percent, led by an 8 percent slide in DAP.

We want to hear from you about the World Development Report 2020 — Global Value Chains: Trading for Development

Pinelopi Goldberg's picture

Last month I announced that the 2020 World Development Report (WDR2020) will focus on global value chains (GVCs) and what they mean for development. Does participating in GVCs promote development? Why are some low-income developing countries reaping the benefits and others not? What can countries do to gain from trade and GVCs, particularly when new technologies are bringing change and the global status quo is in a state of flux? You can read my recent blog post for a summary of the Report’s objectives or read the Concept Note directly.
 

Join sector and communication specialists for a leadership, strategy and stakeholder analysis training course

Umou Al-Bazzaz's picture
Flora Bossey, center, Communication Officer, Edo SEEFOR Project, Nigeria, attended in 2015. © World Bank
Flora Bossey, center, Communication Officer, Edo SEEFOR Project, Nigeria, attended in 2015.
© World Bank

When Amr Abdellah Aly, a department manager at the Electricity Ministry in Egypt, returned home from the Summer Institute in California training course at last year, his first question to his supervisors was if they had a communications strategy in place for the efforts of reforms in the electricity sector. His goal was to stress on the important role of communications throughout the reform process, something he had just learned from the course.
 
Each summer, the World Bank collaborates with the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California to offer the executive education course on reform communication: Leadership, strategy and stakeholder alignment. 

Moving towards gender equality: A new index looks at legal reforms to help women’s economic inclusion

Sarah Iqbal's picture

Do you think the world is becoming more equal for women at work? The recently published Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform gives us some insight. While achieving gender equality requires a broad range of efforts over time, the study focuses on the law as an important first step to providing an objective measure of how specific regulations affect women’s incentives to participate in economic activity.

What is captured in the Women, Business and the Law index?

The study introduces a new index structured around eight indicators that cover different stages of a woman’s working life, which have significant implications for the economic standing of women: Going Places, Starting a Job, Getting Paid, Getting Married, Having Children, Running a Business, Managing Assets and Getting a Pension.

8 Indicators that Measure How Laws Affect Women Through Their Working Lives

Source: Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform

For instance, if a woman cannot leave her home without permission can she effectively look for a job or go on an interview? Even if she is hired, will she need to quit if she gets married or has children? Will she have to move to a lower paying job because she must balance work with caring for her family?

Like manna from heaven? The sustainability of Open Source projects

Michael M. Lokshin's picture

Sustainability of OSS is an important, but often overlooked issue. The private sector is struggling to find the right model to maintain and sustain OSS. The International Development Agencies need viable long-term strategies to sustain the OSS projects they are developing, funding, or using.

Two young colleagues invited me for coffee to discuss their proposal to develop an open source software (OSS) system for administering government programs in developing countries. The idea of replacing costly, custom-built proprietary systems with open-source solutions tailored for specific country requirements was very appealing.

“Why pay millions of dollars for a proprietary solution when an open source system will be free?” exclaimed one of the colleagues.

I inquired cautiously, “Have you considered how to maintain these systems once they are deployed? Who will pay for customization and on-going support to the country clients? How do you consistently ensure the quality of the code?”

“The international OSS community will volunteer their time to maintain and improve these systems.” was the reply.

5 things you didn't know you could do with the Gender Data Portal

World Bank Gender Data Team's picture

Our Gender Data Portal is the World Bank Group’s comprehensive source for historical and current data disaggregated by sex. This data site brings together high-quality, curated data on women and men (and girls and boys) in an easy-to-use platform that covers a wide range of topics such as demography, education, health, economic opportunities, public life and decision-making, and agency. The Gender Data Portal is the go-to place for reliable data disaggregated by sex for countries and regions around the world.

Here are 5 things you can do in our Gender Data Portal:

  1. Easily access data

Time-series data can be downloaded by typing the name of the indicator of interest, exploring the list of indicators, through the data query in DataBank, and the Application Programing Indicators (APIs). Users can also download bulk versions of the database in Excel and CSV.


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