Today, I noticed that the Swedish Police is on Twitter! I am not sure if this is the real Police in West Sweden or just someone just pretending. According the tweets, it looks like the real thing. The links in the tweets point to the official website of the police. The use of Twitter and similar services by government organizations raises the question of how we as citizens can make sure that the identify of the organization has validity and credibility. If the Swedish Police is using Twitter, then this is a truly amazing moment, signaling a radical shift in perspective of government organizations and that they now has started to realize the momentum in social applications and social media.
At the 6th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM2009), I as a conference co-chair had the opportunity give a very short introduction speech.
As always in such occasions it is typically a speech with many nice words and hopes for the future. My speech was no exception. The only exception is that I personally believe that we as researchers in this domain seriously should make strong efforts in moving in this very direction. The road ahead will not be easy but from my perspective, our options are few. So what was my speech all about? Here are the key issues. Have in mind that I have removed the more ceremonial aspects of the speech.
We are all in the business of information technology in crisis response. What does this really mean? I do believe that there are some demands attached.
We as a community must make our very best not only in conducting high quality research and raise the quality standards of our mutual efforts. But also that we in the future, starting already today, must be able to deliver rigorous as well as relevant results to both academia and practice. If we neglect either side, we face the risk of losing substantial values that we as a community could provide.
So, we must apply existing methods and also develop new methods for end-user involvement, the participation of professionals in our design activities, as well as plan and execute collaborative projects targeting the perspectives of decision makers and policy-makers in local organizations and government agencies.
However this is not enough, we should also make stronger efforts in transferring our results into a market setting in order to ensure that more innovative products and services will become available for professional and grass-root users. We must release our prototypes from our labs and into the wild. And we should do this on a massive scale.
All these things are too much for anyone of us to carry out. Instead we must increase our efforts in establishing inter-disciplinary research teams. Not as a facade but because we see the true value of it.
The big question is, how many are willing to follow and move ahead along this bumpy road?
On thursday the 23rd of April, me and my colleague Fredrik Bergstrand attended a TableTop-execercise focusing on Pandemic flu. It was a good exercise where different organizations explained how they would work during the different stages of the escalation of a pandemic disease. In relation to what the world became aware of just two days later, this exercise became much more interesting that initially experienced. It is always good to get insights on the planning process as well as experiencing what really takes place when the event everyone has waited for actually do occur. The excercise was organized by the Regional Administrative board together with the regional health authorities and the local government.
Info och Anmälan: www.iscram.org
On friday night, I had an interview with a fire crew commander at a local fire station in Gothenburg. We had a conversation about what qualities a mobile system for emergency response work could provide. In contrast to the more typical aspects such as faster response work and safer response work, this fire crew commander identified “credibility” as one such important quality. The argument was that now days when every organization by law is requested to provide documentation about the organization’s accident prevention activities and potential risks in the organization facilities, – would it not be a risk to loose credibility if the first responders does not have access to part of that information. The documentation provided by the organization includes risks and specific locations and material that the first responders shall make effort to protect in case of emergency. If the organization is providing this information to the fire and rescue services( FRS), but the FRS fails to make available such information in response work, then why should the organization provide such information in the first place. Whenever information in is delivered to the FRS, the sender of that information is typically expecting the FRS to be aware and act according to that information. The fire crew commander expressed that if we do not have access to such information in the early phases of the response work, our credibility will severely damaged and we will look unprofessional. A mobile system providing support for the operative response work will improve or at least not decrease our (FRS) credibility. However, if the system will fail to deliver such information, then we have huge problems that will take time to repair.
The conversation, that I had with the fire crew commander illustrates the complexity in providing information technology to such work. Political decisions in one part of the organization have consequences for a different part of the organization. Such complex interrelated consequences are hard to investigate and typically very hard to plan for.
I hope that this example will provide some insights that potentially could trigger reflections when introducing or planning to introducing information technology and information systems in fire and rescue services.