A Minimalistic Response Application

This week I meet a nice group of industrial people working in the area of information systems for civil security and crisis response. On the train back to Gothenburg, a few things crossed my mind. In contrast to many large scale and perhaps sometime to complex systems (the guys I meet did not vote for such systems), perhaps a minimalistic approach is a better way to go.
But what should such a minimalistic system consist of? Where do you draw the line? What components or functions is the at the core for such systems?

My list of components or functions would be the following:
– A map where objects can be added and that can be shared between users (preferable a google-like map)
– A status field answering the question: What is going on? ( aka. the Twitter and Facebook status bar)
– A contact list with all the people that use the system (adds information or view the information)
– A photo/video blog where rich media can be uploaded and tagged
– A whiteboard for the top-10 actions presenting planned and ongoing actions (oh yes…everyone should be able to comment)

– Access should be granted by invitation or request (aka the social software mechanism)
– Openness provided by RSS-feeds to distribute and include information
– This system should run on a laptop and heavily rely on peer-to-peer technology in order to scale up the system when necessary.
– The system should heavily rely on mobilephones for efficient in-the-pocket/ ready-at-hand capability to access and provide information.

There is no question that there exists alot of people that is capable of bringing these tiny bits and pieces together. However, I am amazed that we do not see this system up and running all over the place. Perhaps there are people in the ISCRAM-community or in Industry that could materialize these ideas. A problem could be how to fund such a project. Should it be an open-source project or is it possible to design a business model where the system is affordable for NGOs, temporary work-groups and rapid response teams.

An interesting combination of organizations for an industry project would be:
– a telecom solution provider
– a civil security solution provider
– a mobilephone application provider
– a rapid response organization

In relation to the need for this type of response system solution on the global market, it should not be too difficult to form a project consortium. But who is willing to take the lead in such a project?

6 thoughts on “A Minimalistic Response Application

  1. Hi Jonas,Have you heard of Sahana? A free and open source software (FOSS) web-based disaster management system? I think we’re a long way down the path to building what you have described.http://www.sahana.lk/And yes, I think FOSS is the ideal form as many organisations that have money to spend can’t afford the expensive proprietary systems. Far better that they take a consortium approach to develop a shared platform, and then rely on local service providers to install, maintain, and customise the solution.Cheers Gavin

  2. Gavin, yes I know about Sahana and the efforts you all have made there is impressive. Chamindra and I have met several times as part of ISCRAM-community activities.Perhaps it is time to see how Sahana or a Sahana-like system could be adapted to emergency and crisis response where the scale of the event is not a disaster but something a bit smaller. Anyway it is good that the discussion has started and that systems based on similar approach is already available. To my knowledge, small software companies seems a bit reluctant to go for the FOSS approach. What is your opinion?

  3. A couple of questions there…1 re: Sahana – I’d love to see the Sahana ecosystem expanded with applications for citizens to use on their mobile phones, that can act peer-to-peer via wifi, and are interoperable with Sahana servers. Of course this should expand to support other applications, but all on a common framework of interoperable standards.2 re: FOSS – I almost think that small companies have more to gain from using FOSS. They are too small to go head-to-head with the larger proprietary software companies, so I think small companies can leverage their small size by using FOSS. It acts as a catalyst or multiplier to allow them to punch well beyond their weight. I almost think it is one of the few ways that a small startup can challenge large incumbents in a given ‘solution’.Getting back to one of your other points, about working on things that are smaller than a disaster, that is something I’ve promoted within the Sahana community for a while. I would like to see Business Continutiy modules built on top of the Sahana core framework, as in honesty, there is a large market for BC solutions (more organisations) but there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t use the same framework 🙂

  4. Jonas, thanks for a simple straightforward analysis of the problem.I wonder if the solution might lie not so much in end-point applications, where competitive pressures and particular local requirements inevitably create pressure toward differentiation, but perhaps more in negotiating an open architecture for sharing the essential functions you’ve identified across diverse platforms.In other words, maybe the network really is the solution. Of course standards processes can get bogged down too, especially when they become too much entangled with corporate or governmental power. But it seems like an Open Emergency Network might be constructed along the lines you describe using existing open resources without necessarily having to appeal to authority for validation.

  5. Art – I agree. The is developing an information architecture for emergency management that is based upon open standards so that a whole ecosystem of applications, services and datastores can be constructed.You’re also right about not needing authority to accomplish it. If we really want to create resilience communities, it is not about giving government the tools, rather it is about giving the people the tools – to communicate with each other, and with the government.This is why I believe work such as the EIIF is important to identify gaps, and see where further standards and the like are required to work towards this goal.

  6. Art, your are right about that the problem is not in the end applications but rather in the “infrastructure”. The concept of an Open Emergency Network that could enable the flow and exchange of information is a good concept. However, I still do believe that government agencies should be highly involved. At least from a Swedish perspective, the government agencies have power to force large and small companies to comply to these open standards. The government should not only force tech-companies to comply BUT encourage them to do so. Without an Open Emergency Network there will be no network effects and the current situation with spaghetti-integration between systems will persist. An open innovation approach is in my mind the solution to this problem but we should be aware to include the major stakeholders in such a process:Government agenciesLarge tech companiesSmall tech companiesEnd-user organisationsHowever, we do not need to involve all organizations but be aware of their perspectives and key-questions.It would be a nice thing if someone could initiate a small project on what such an Open Emergency Network should consist of and start such a process my working on the very basic components in order to have a cumulative development strategy and over time have more actors involved in the work.

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