Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day Tsunami - Birth of Sahana

In many countries belonging to the Commonwealth of Nations, December 26th is known as Boxing Day, the day when tradesmen and servants traditionally receive a "boxed" gift from their supervisors. It's also the day when an earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 created a devastating tsunami that killed a total of more than 230,000 people living in fourteen countries. Out of this tragedy, one of the world's first volunteer organizations focused on bringing the power of technology to the disaster response equation was born. Now known as the Sahana Software Foundation, the organization began to develop in the days after the Boxing Day Tsunami as it became apparent there was not only a humanitarian crisis, but an information one as well. As described on a New Zealand Institute for IT Professionals web site, the story of Sahana has come forward from those first days as follows: 
Hundreds of programmers were assembled under the Lanka Software Foundation and over the course of a week created a web application to register missing persons, camps, and the swelling numbers of NGO's in Sri Lanka. This system was called Sahana - Sinhalese for 'relief'.
Since then, Sahana has been rewritten, and has been deployed at many of the large disasters over the past 5 years, and has won numerous open source awards and accolades.
The aspirations on the project are captured in the following goals:
  • Primary: Help alleviate human suffering and help save lives through the efficient use of IT during a disaster
  • Bring together a diverse set of actors from Government, Emergency Management, NGOs, INGOs, spontaneous volunteers and victims themselves in responding effectively to a disaster
  • Empower the victims and their next of kin and better enable them to help themselves
  • Protect victim data and reduce the opportunity for data abuse
  • Provide a Free and Open Source solution end-to-end available to everyone 
To learn more about the Sahana Software Foundation and its efforts, use the link below to visit its website:

Comment: It's truly inspiring to see that out of the tragedy that was the Boxing Day Tsunami, an effort continues to this day that is providing free and open disaster management software to groups and individuals who could otherwise not afford the technology.  Very cool - big kudos to all the Sahana volunteers and those who are financially supporting them!     

Lead graphic: Wikipedia

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