Devastating natural disasters have continued to strike communities across the globe – Superstorm Sandy in the U.S., Haiti, and the Caribbean, earthquakes in Iran, Italy, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, and Hurricane Ernesto in Mexico to name just a few of the most dangerous weather events – endangering millions of citizens in 2012 alone. These circumstances can challenge even the most prepared cities, as emergency responders, law enforcement, and government officials are called on to quickly restore order and safety before more lives are lost. In such cases, technology can often provide crucial support for public safety agencies before, during and after a natural disaster.
The City of Christchurch in New Zealand was hit by powerful earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. To coordinate the rebuilding efforts, including more than 500 repair and construction projects and many more to come, the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) needed to harness the vast amount of data. With guidance from the civil infrastructure firm Fulton Hogan, SCIRT engaged Microsoft partners Intergen and Theta to design and develop the overall business intelligence (BI) solution while consulting company Clarus led project management to support rapid development and deployment. Within four months, the companies had built a comprehensive solution for SCIRT using Microsoft’s SQL Server 2008 R2 and SharePoint technologies.
SCIRT’s Microsoft-based BI solution now allows it to pull a vast array of data efficiently and accurately into concise and easily understood reports that greatly enhance its decision-making capabilities. The single portal view and the cloud-based nature mean staff can use the self-service BI functionality provided by multiple collaboration tools to undertake and share detailed data analysis quickly and easily.
“To support SCIRT’s mission to deliver 700+ civil projects within five years while keeping all stakeholders informed, a BI platform had to be up and running within three months. To achieve this, a consortium approach was adopted leveraging the strengths of Microsoft partners. I am extremely proud of way these companies worked together to deliver SCIRT’s BI vision,” said Lance Kenworthy, Group Manager Information Systems at Fulton Hogan, about the project.
“The sheer scale of the work means this is the only practical way to manage activity,” said Rob Hawthorne, Theta’s Central Region Manager. “The system will flag when a project parameter is being breached, allowing SCIRT to step in to put everything back on track.”
Microsoft and its partners also worked with intergovernmental agencies, including the United Nations (UN), local governments, and NGOs, to offer support following the massive earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti in 2010 as well as the severe flooding that displaced millions of people in Pakistan later that same year.
The emergency responses to Haiti and Pakistan were addressed in two stages. The initial effort is always focused on saving lives immediately following a disaster, and the long-term efforts are centered on the rebuilding process.
One of the Microsoft team’s first efforts following the earthquake in Haiti was to work with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to implement a central collaboration portal that enabled all humanitarian organizations to exchange information. OCHA managed the portal, while Microsoft committed to developing, hosting, and supporting the portal. The portal gave the responders an easy way to exchange information during the initial response, which made it easier to respond effectively to critical humanitarian needs while avoiding duplication of services.
To support the reconstruction process in Pakistan, Microsoft donated Grants360, a state-of-the-art monitoring system designed to provide donors and the public with detailed information as to how their donations are being spent. Grants360 is a cloud-based solution built on the Windows Azure platform that uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM to enable government officials to track donations while allowing donors to see how their donations are spent. The software was adapted from Stimulus360, which was designed by Microsoft to help the Obama administration and state governments to track spending of TARP stimulus funds.
Microsoft worked with Punjab Chief Minister Sharif to roll out the system. Since then, the Punjab government has decided to use the solution to manage all of its finances, not just donations, and the solution is drawing interest in other government ministries.
To find more stories like these, check out this recent blog post by my colleague Michele Bedford Thistle at Microsoft on Government, or visit Microsoft’s case study page.