Facebook Inc. rolled out Disaster Maps for India on Thursday to help communities across the country recover and rebuild from natural disasters faster by sharing critical pieces of data sets with humanitarian agencies in a timely manner.
The new product was launched at the company’s first Disaster Response Summit in India along with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to improve disaster response and disaster management in India.
According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) data, India is the third-worst affected country by natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, landslides, cyclones and drought. Moreover, the response time during and after these crises is often slow and it takes significant time and resources to understand where help is needed most. Disaster Maps, powered by Facebook’s technology and intensive research, will address this critical gap in data that government organizations face when responding to a crisis.
According to Ritesh Mehta, head of programs, India, South and Central Asia: “We want to empower our community by building products that connect people and create positive social impact. In times of disaster, our platform is a valuable source of information—whether it’s letting your friends and family know you are safe with Safety Check or using Facebook to raise donations for relief efforts.”
“The NDMA is proactively utilizing social media for awareness generation. This is an important benchmark towards integrating social media with disaster response activities. I am sure this partnership will open new avenues for using mobile technology in disaster situation,” said R.K. Jain, member, NDMA.
What are Disaster Maps?
Disaster Maps, which was introduced globally in June, uses aggregated, de-identified Facebook data to help organizations address the critical gap in information they often face when responding to natural disasters. Facebook provides multiple types of maps during disaster response efforts, which include aggregated location information people have chosen to share with Facebook. This helps NGOs and relief agencies get a clearer picture of where affected people are located so they can determine where resources—like food, water and medical supplies—are needed.
Facebook researchers have built three kinds of maps:
Location density maps: These show where people are located before, during and after a disaster. We can compare this information to historical records, like population estimates based on satellite images. Comparing these data sets can help response organizations understand areas impacted by a natural disaster.
Movement maps: These illustrate patterns of movement between different neighbourhoods or cities over a period of several hours. By understanding these patterns, response organizations can better predict where resources will be needed, gain insight into patterns of evacuation, or predict where traffic will be most congested.Safety Check: These maps are based on locations where our community uses Safety Check to notify their friends and family that they are safe during a disaster. We are using this de-identified data in aggregate to show where more or fewer people check in safe, which may help organizations understand where people are most vulnerable and where help is needed.
While globally Facebook has partnered with organizations like the Red Cross, in India, initially it will join hands with two organizations: the NDMA and SEEDS (Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society) and will share data about Facebook users with them in times of disasters. Over time, they will add more such partners.
Facebook has 2 billion-plus users globally and according to a media report, its users in India have crossed the 240 million mark, making it the largest audience country for the social media company.
Facebook has developed a number of crisis response tools. It activated the Safety Check feature in 2014 and launched Community Help in 2015, which allows the Facebook community to find and give help such as food, shelter and transportation.