This past week was pretty incredible.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know already that I was in Washington D.C. with a host of other friends and folks for the White House Innovation Day. You should read my friend, Kevin Surs post about this rather incredible experience. Another post from Kyle Richardson is available at this link.
Rather than recount similarly, I thought Id blog today on the messages both shared and observed throughout this trip of a lifetime.
The purpose of our visit was clear: To identify and evaluate the existing challenges surround the use of collaborative technologies and big data in emergency response.
Simply? Why arent every day first responders using social media and data to inform key decisions?
And, over the course of 36 hours, I was able to sit in meetings at the White House, FEMA, Senate, House of Representatives and at our #DC Tweetup that was attended by #SMEM friends, contractors and tech agencies who were discussing these same issues in-depth, resulting in these key messages:
Whole Community Needs Refinement:
While Ill be the first to tell you that I firmly believe in the notion of whole community because I believe that it is everyones responsibility to engage in emergency response, public agencies still struggle with how to incorporate the voice of its residents and digital technology providers. We still see many technology providers aiming to fit their products into the disaster services sphere without the direct involvement of emergency service providers. And, while often, we can see some decent applications of technology, it occurs more by happenstance and not by direct intentional engagement. In order to be effective, the idea of whole community needs to be defined such that it provides quality roles for public safety agencies, other government entities, students, volunteers, private sector, and NGOs.
Rather than Creating Technology Solutions, Government Should Develop Trust & Meaningful Engagement with Tech Developers
Emergency responders should not be making technology and conversely, technology providers should not be leading the emergency response. For years, we have seen public agencies recreate the technical wheels of ideas that were often first birthed in the private sector. For example, government has attempted versions of social networks and damage reporting tools that look similar to both Facebook and Instagram, but few of the public apps have ever caught on in the public sphere like the ones more widely accepted. We have to develop trust and meaningful engagement between both groups so that people can lend their expert perspective into the development of technology and so that we are truly solving problems in a meaningful way.
Resistance to Social Media is Primarily Cultural & Resource-Based
While we still encounter people who are simply opposed to social media, the primary reluctance is often a deficit in the time & space to learn how to use collaborative technologies. And while those of us who use social media know that it allows us to become situationally aware more quickly, to the emergency manager who doesnt yet use social media, the perception still exists that it is one more thing to learn or manage. And, perceptually, this remains a barrier.