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Author de Lanerolle, Trishan ♦ Curzon, Rebecca ♦ Morelli, Ralph ♦ Mao, Xin Sheng ♦ de Silva, Chamindra
Source ACM Digital Library
Content type Text
Publisher Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
File Format PDF
Language English
Abstract A firsthand account of an international team effort to install the Sahana disaster-management system in Chengdu, Sichuan after an earthquake. On Monday May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck in Sichuan Province in southwestern China, destroying homes, schools, hospitals, roads, and vital power and communication infrastructure. More than 45 million people were affected---tens of thousands were killed, hundreds of thousands injured, millions of people were evacuated and left homeless, and millions of buildings were destroyed. When the earthquake hit, several members of what became an international, volunteer, disaster-management IT team were attending a workshop in Washington, D.C. The workshop was organized by the IBM Office of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs department to train IBM personnel and others in the use and deployment of Sahana, a free and open source software (FOSS) disaster management system. Sahana, which means relief in Sinhalese, is a Web-based collaboration tool that helps manage information resources during a disaster recovery effort. It supports a wide range of relief efforts from finding missing persons, to managing volunteers, tracking resources, and coordinating refugee camps. Sahana enables government groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the victims themselves to work together during a disaster recovery effort. Over the next several weeks, the team members, distributed among several cities (Beijing and Chengdu in China, Hartford and New York in the U.S., and Colombo in Sri Lanka), worked together over global communication channels to configure and deploy Sahana in Chengdu, in order to support the disaster recovery effort there. The organizations involved in the collaboration included: • The Lanka Software Foundation (LSF), developers of the Sahana system. Three LSF members, led by the second author, were conducting the training workshop. • Various departments of IBM, including Business Continuity and Resiliency Services. Ten employees led by the fourth author, who organized the workshop, were receiving instruction in how to deploy and use Sahana. • The Humanitarian FOSS Project (H-FOSS), an NSF-funded effort aimed at revitalizing undergraduate computing education. Four students and their mentors, the first and third authors, were attending the workshop as developers and undergraduate members of the Sahana community. • IBM China. Initially, local teams in Beijing and Chengdu consisting of corporate citizenship, government relations, and technical professionals led in demonstrating Sahana to local officials, securing buy-in, and establishing channels to proceed. Then a large team of developers, language specialists, and others, including a team based in Chengdu, Sichuan, eventually took charge of the deployment effort in Chengdu. The fifth author was a member of the China development team. Almost immediately after the earthquake, discussions were held between IBM, IBM China, China's Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the Chengdu city government in Sichuan province. Once the Chengdu government expressed real interest in deploying Sahana, a team was formed to begin the process of localizing Sahana---that is, translating its user interface into simplified Chinese. The team was led by executives and software developers from IBM-China and assisted by Sahana team members in Colombo and student H-FOSS volunteers in Hartford. The team's organizational structure followed the normal procedure involved in previous Sahana deployments---a local group in close proximity to the incident supported by volunteers from the global Sahana community. In this case IBM-China, including some who were directly affected by the disaster, took the lead in deploying Sahana over an intensive three-week period. The decision by the Chengdu government to proceed with the deployment was taken on May 21, 2008 and a revised and localized version of Sahana was deployed in Chengdu on May 25. On June 12 we learned that 42 families had been reunited with the help of Sahana. This article provides an inside look at the deployment effort. It describes how a diverse, multidisciplinary team---professional programmers, software engineers, executives from a large global enterprise, students, faculty, and humanitarian IT specialists from a global FOSS community---worked together to assist the earthquake recovery effort. The success of the collaboration illustrates the power of virtual communities working across international boundaries using a variety of electronic communication software. It also demonstrates that the Internet has truly made us all neighbors and is constantly forcing us to redefine our concept of community.
Description Affiliation: IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs based in Massachusetts (Curzon, Rebecca) || IBM Software Group based in Beijing, China (Mao, Xin Sheng) || Virtusa, Inc. (de Silva, Chamindra) || Trinity College in Hartford, CT (Morelli, Ralph; de Lanerolle, Trishan)
Age Range 18 to 22 years ♦ above 22 year
Educational Use Research
Education Level UG and PG
Learning Resource Type Article
Publisher Date 2005-08-01
Publisher Place New York
Journal Communications of the ACM (CACM)
Volume Number 53
Issue Number 12
Page Count 8
Starting Page 142
Ending Page 149


Source: ACM Digital Library