How a custom Microsoft app is helping the Caribbean rebuild after hurricanes

0 98
Workers gather data using the Microsoft Building Damage Assessment app in Barbuda. The island was home to 1,600 people, all of whom were evacuated after Hurricane Irma. (United Nations Development Program Photo)
Workers gather data using the Microsoft Building Damage Assessment app in Barbuda. The island was home to 1,600 people, all of whom were evacuated after Hurricane Irma. (United Nations Development Program Photo)

CODRINGTON, Barbuda — Last month at a United Nations donor conference, the international community pledged $1.3 billion to rebuild the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean. But how did they know how much the region, which was hit with back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes in September, needs to recover? In part thanks to a new app and software bundle from Microsoft, developed in collaboration with U.N. relief workers.

The prosaically named Building Damage Assessment app turned out to play a vital role in assessing the devastation of Barbuda and Dominica, two islands that faced the full force of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, respectively. Optimised for tablet, the Building Damage Assessment allows volunteers in the field with minimal training to quickly input data about structural damage through a series of drop-down questions, and collect photographs for visual evidence. The data is stored offline and then uploaded via the cloud when the tablet gets back in mobile data or wi-fi range. Professionals, meanwhile, can analyze the data using Microsoft Power BI to tabulate the total amount of damage and detect trends, like certain types of building materials that were more prone to collapse.

The results have impressed even seasoned post-disaster professionals like Ugo Blanco of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “It’s going to change the way assessments have been done,” he said. “It can be deployed any time, anywhere. In a few days, we can have the teams in any country in the world.”

Read more at: GeekWire

%d bloggers like this: