Sri Lanka is in a bit of a dry spell, punctuated by the side effects of the monsoon season – floods and landslides.
Such extreme weather is impacting people’s livelihoods and food supply, and they do not seem to be going away for the time being. This is why the UN’s Pulse Lab Jakarta (PLJ) is working with the Ministry of Disaster Management of Sri Lanka and the World Food Programme (WFP) on a disaster management information system.
The Platform for Real-time Information and Situation Monitoring (PRISM) provides the government with three layers of data visualisation and analysis. The baseline data layer shows basic information from official statistics, and the climate layer compiles satellite data on drought. The impact layer provides insights on these two previous layers, such as where affected crops are, and how many people are at risk of food insecurity. Such data allow for early warning, preparedness, and response when it comes to climate change.
There are currently around 46 active users across Government and WFP Sri Lanka, according to WFP Sri Lanka Vulnerability Assessment Officer Laksiri Nanayakkara, “but we are yet to conduct an policy impact evaluation on the system”.
PRISM was based on a similar system in Indonesia, known as the Vulnerability Analysis Monitoring Platform for the Impact of Regional Events (VAMPIRE) – and in fact, is an improved version. PRISM has a more refined method of acquiring data, updates datasets in shorter intervals, has drought situation reporting capabilities, and includes automated features.
WFP has expressed interest in developing additional layers to improve flood monitoring, and better vulnerability models to accelerate disaster response, according to a PLJ blog.
And based on its success, there are plans to introduce the platform to other parts of Asia. “We are in talks with the Government and UN Country Team in Papua New Guinea with a view to establishing a version of the system there, and we are in the process of open sourcing the tool to enable uptake elsewhere,” explains Simon Hollema, Senior Programme & Policy Adviser for Asia & the Pacific at WFP.
He adds that they are also “conducting further tests of the accuracy of alerts, fine-tuning them to sub-national needs and realities”.
As countries grapple with climate change, emergency response and preparedness teams are put to the test. But in today’s connected world, data analysis can be the most powerful tool of all.