Ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are just some of the forces of nature that can wreak havoc on the lives of untold thousands in a period of seconds, minutes, days, or months. As global temperatures rise and as a growing human population expands into more and more areas less and less suited for either habitation or rescue, the average person in the world (one of 6+ billion) faces an increasing likelyhood that he or she will face a real disaster that seriously disrupts possible response.
Consider the plight of Sri Lanka, which was devastated by a tsunami in 2004. According to a BBC eyewitness reporter:
There are no kind of emergency services here, there are no helicopters thumping through the sky to come to save people. It is a do-it-yourself rescue.
The final tally reported more than 40,000 dead and a staggering 2.5 million displaced. And from the report's summary: "Waves as high as six meters had crashed into coastal villages, sweeping away people, cars, and even a train with 1,700 passengers." Whatever infrastructure may have existed prior to the tsunami, it was completely overwhelmed by both the magnitude of human need and the destructive power of the disaster. Within hours, open-source software developers created the Sahana project, and within days, their home-grown solution was doing more to help the Sri Lankan people than first-world conventional software packages did in far less extreme circumstances. And now it is doing even more, with the One Laptop Per Child hardware platform.… Read more