In the last few months, I have worked on an idea that needs to further explored. What could it mean if future emergency response information systems would be based on the fact that mobile phones are the only information technology in common for emergency responders across all sectors in society. What would it mean if more focus would be put on using commercial communication infrastructures for sharing information in events of crisis. What would it mean if developers of emergency response information systems turned their attention to open web 2.0 technologies instead of proprietary solutions. What would it mean if we in Sweden could establish an infrastructure where various organization could make available parts of their systems as services to be used by what ever other organization in need of that specific information or functionality. These questions has emerged from discussions and seminars with master students at the Mobile Services program at the IT-university in Gothenburg.
According to experiences of emergencies and small-scale disasters in Sweden, commercial telecommunication systems seldom break down as an effect of the accident or disaster agent. The usage of advanced mobile phone terminals from SonyEricsson and Nokia has a very high penetration in society. Therefore, I would argue, this is the moment when a distinct focus must be put on everyday personal communication devices as perhaps the main target for the design of future emergency response information systems. The trend of SOA, Service-Oriented Architectures are long under way in many sectors which should also be the case in the Emergency response domain. By using web 2.0 technologies, no centralized information systems would be necessary, but rather be avoided. Instead, systems should make use of mechanisms that allow a evolving pool of information infrastructures to coexist and be interconnected when various emergency response organizations becomes involved in the same event or response operation. Some perhaps immature ideas along these lines of thinking have resulted in the identification of the following design dimensions that should be put in focus:
# Actor Connectedness
This type of mechanism should allow different actors for different organizations to become connected and make visible the response network they are formally or informally part of.
# Priority Cloning
This mechanism allows network priority held by members in one organization to become transferred to members in other organizations. The network priority should be able to clone across organizational boundaries by the an explicit cloning event.
# Infrastructure Syndication
There should be mechanisms to interconnect each organizations information systems and open up access to specific part of those systems as part of the structural connectedness of the involved actors. Syndication would here allow simple means to make available information and services from each of the organizations to all the other organizations.
# Information Infrastructure Diffusion
Whenever a set of organizational actors from different organizations have become connected and have access to a common information infrastructure, this interrelated cluster should also be able to become diffused for members across one organization.
The design dimensions point to specific functionality that future systems should exploit. The objective with such use of information technology in the domain of emergency response is the vision to provide better means to improve the ability to form a common operating picture which in the end could improve the outcome of emergency and disaster relief efforts in situations with many involved response organizations.
However, these ideas are far from being mature or yet transferable to a specific set of requirements that could be implemented. But I hope that I will be able to spend more time in the next few months to develop these ideas, preferably in a project with reasonable funding.