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Opening up a world of data for resilience: A global effort to help access and use countries’ disaster risk information

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As a country that is particularly vulnerable to flooding, Malawians know that they cannot halt the forces of nature, but they can prepare and plan for their impacts – and they did. Supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank, the Government of Malawi undertook a series of community mapping activities in which it collected data about the environment for a flood risk modeling exercise and other preparedness activities. So in January 2015, when Malawi experienced its most devastating flood in a century, the data that its government collected was used to support recovery activities.

Robust and actionable information like this can help those at risk understand and prepare for hazards, saving lives and assets. However, even in this era of big data and hyper-connectivity, when one would think that every place on earth is already mapped in great detail, such information is often inaccessible, disparate, or altogether nonexistent. Even as recently as this month’s earthquake on the border of Tanzania and Uganda, people still scrambled for spatial information. Doing so in the moments after a disaster, though, is too late.

Recognizing these fundamental issues, GFDRR launched the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) in 2011 as a way to harness innovations in the areas of open data, civic technology and user-centered design.

Open Data for Resilience (OpenDRI) Initiative

After being used in more than 30 countries in the initiative's first five years, it has become apparent that the outputs are more impactful not only as a greater number of places are mapped, but also as a greater number of people are able to access the information. So we’re excited to announce that OpenDRI has taken its efforts further with a new website to communicate its purpose, extend the reach of the data sharing platforms it supports, update readers on program progress, and develop the community by sharing best practices.

The new website aims to help users and creators of risk information from around the world discover projects demonstrating new approaches and best practices. For example, ongoing engagements in Tanzania with Dar Ramani Huria, a local group made of community and institutional partners, are using drones for disaster risk reduction efforts and tracing historical flood inundation extents through participatory mapping activities.

Our partners often approach us with many important questions: Which countries have available data? Where are the community mapping and crowdsourcing efforts? Where are other successful approaches? aims to address these, featuring a map that outlines projects across the globe.

In addition to project information, a number of engagement essentials and publications can be found in the OpenDRI resource library, including the Open Data for Resilience Initiative Field Guide and the Planning a Community Mapping Project with OpenStreetMap guide. The latter is hosted on GitHub to increase accessibility and availability of the content while allowing members of the community to offer contributions or corrections to the document. Publications to look forward to in the coming months include the OpenDRI and GeoNode: A Case Study in Open Source Investment report and an OpenDRI Assessment Guide.

For information about how the initiative as a whole is progressing, our team members and partners will write brief “Updates from the Field” to share achievements and challenges.


Vivien Deparday

Spécialiste de la gestion des risques de catastrophes, Fonds mondial pour la réduction des risques de catastrophes et le relèvement (GFDRR)

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