Technology and ODK based assistance during natural disasters

August 23, 2019 12:00 AM
  • car stuck in the floods

Natural disasters occur without notice and can destroy lives and livelihoods of many based on the scale of destruction left in its wake. Such disasters are inevitable and its consequences even worse. The loss of lives and assets almost always leaves behind suffering.

In mid 2018, Kerala experienced massive floods which brought a death toll over 483. The devastating rains and floods had swept away homes, infrastructure and farmlands from 10 districts with property damage of 5.6 Billion USD. The floods have hit again this year, causing further damage, with the death toll already crossing 120 and over 26000 people in refugee camps across the state. Kerala, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh are all struggling through floods this year in India.

In the face of such horrific damage, technology has been instrumental in rescuing people and helping out emergency response teams. 

Technology increases connectivity, aiding the  pace of rescue operations. It creates a plethora of  options for tracking, supplying needs, analyzing damage, offering health kits, and donating to the cause. 

Open Data Kit (ODK) is one such product of technology that is specifically aimed at disaster management. It is a free and open source software suite that is simple to install and handle and does not require programming skills. This suite is designed in a way that users can create forms that can be deployed into mobile devices to collect survey-based data and visualize it in real-time from anywhere.

Techstack of ODK

Implementation is simple, the software suite consists of the following three modules to help set up and configure the real-time data model for better understanding data in emergencies.

ODK Collect: ODK collect replaces the paper forms for data collection, it is an open-source Android app that supports wide-range of questions and answer types aiding data collection. This app works well even without an internet connection.

ODK Aggregate: ODK Aggregate is a Java application server installed on local desktop or laptop. It is an open source application that will store, analyze, and present XForm survey data collected through ODK collect. This application also visualizes the collected data using graphs and maps.

ODK Forms: ODK Forms help ODK users to design the forms to ODK collect. ODK users usually build forms using excel and convert to XForms. ODK Forms also has an Integration called ODK Build which helps users build forms with simple drag-and-drop and works both online and offline.

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