Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another portal ... another presentation of data, but not a better paradigm

Dear Colleagues

Another initiative that I have been introduced to is the The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) ... and I have tried hard to understand what value is added from this initiative.
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System provides near real-time alerts about natural disasters around the world and tools to facilitate response coordination, including media monitoring, map catalogues and Virtual On-Site Operations Coordination Centre.
Clearly the technology is getting better, and it is now possible to see material more easily than before ... but the general observation has to be that there are better presentations of the same old same old data. Essentially much more data are "a click away", but the data being presented are mainly getting more "attractive" rather than getting to be significantly more "useful".

In the corporate world "management information" is very summary ... but with a lot of "drill down" capability to what is essential data about the subject of analysis. Management information is not about "stories" but about analysis of data ... and good management information is also very low cost in relation to its value.

Low cost and high value is only possible when the data are useful AND this useful data is in a form so that there can be easy feedback into improved activities. In relief and development, this translates into a need for data that have community focus and can be used by local actors in a practical way ... that is the Community Analytics (CA) model.

When the state of a community and the progress of a community are part of the broad socio-economic knowledge database ... then it will be possible to have mapping overlays that are of value. At the present there are the sector mapping overlays but with nothing that integrates and coordinates at the community level.

In conclusion, the GDACS portal reflects good technology ... but does not move the data agenda forward very much. Now it may be that I do not know enough about what they are doing, but the impression is that this is just another way of re-presenting data and analysis rather than the beginning of a new paradigm.

Peter Burgess

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