Nepal earthquake recovery: UN, Microsoft’s cloud-based app revolutionizes disaster reliefExpand to read about Nepal earthquake recovery
“This app, built here in Nepal by Nepali developers, can be the template. We can hand it off to the next government right at the beginning, so they can record where people live, where they come from, everything else, and store all of that information both on-premises and in the cloud.”
In April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal and affected the lives of approximately 8 million people. Nearly 9,000 people died, and some 600,000 homes and buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. With many of the survivors living in tents, there was tremendous urgency to begin reconstruction before the brutal winter set in.Technology Solution
The daunting task of rebuilding began with mapping where the original structures had stood. In the past, such records were maintained on paper, which can be difficult or impossible to obtain following a disaster of this magnitude. To expedite reconstruction, the Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) Nepal—in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—built a mobile phone app that tracks and coordinates logistics, personnel, and payments.
Built using Visual Studio and connected to Office 365, Power BI, SQL Server, and Microsoft Azure, the app was available through the Microsoft Store to Windows Phones in the field. It offered a flexible, cost-effective solution for overseeing a complicated recovery and rebuilding operation in a remote area that otherwise would have required far more time, resources, and money.Outcome
The cloud-based app tapped into a mobile phone’s GPS capabilities, allowing reconstruction crews to record precise coordinates and measurements for each building prior to demolition. The app also was used to manage daily cash payments to thousands of local workers, many of whom were clearing debris. That helped restart the country’s economy and infused money into communities that needed it most.
The app from UNDP and Microsoft has the potential to revolutionize how the world responds to disasters. Storing records securely in the cloud can help rebuild census data, property records, and land tenure rights—critical for recovery efforts in developing nations with rudimentary record-keeping systems. The app also can enable relief agencies to share valuable records created during early phases of a disaster to jumpstart reconstruction.
“It’s so huge,” says Jamie McGoldrick, who oversees the UNDP in Nepal. “We can revolutionize the entire global response to disasters. With a cell phone, we can change the world.”