Digital connections are offering new ways for emergency workers to respond to natural disasters and outbreaks of disease. Take geographic information system (GIS) mapping. According to National Geographic, it took less than 48 hours after the May 2015 Nepal earthquake for a global network of GIS-equipped volunteers to provide precise directions to relief workers on the ground. Later last year, the South Korean government used mapping technology to quickly locate, quarantine and treat individuals suspected of being infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The decisive action has been credited with thwarting a MERS pandemic in Seoul — and helping calm residents’ fears about the virus.
One of the most innovative users of GIS mapping is California-based Direct Relief. The medical philanthropy nonprofit maps and visualizes channels of aid and medical material distribution. Its goal: Provide relief workers with what the company terms an “understanding of specific conditions to aid in disaster preparedness and for transparency and accountability” to donors. It’s an example of how digital technology can help make disaster-relief agencies more effective for both the people they serve and those who donate.