C. Information, Technology, and International Networking for Anticipation and Mitigation of Natural Disasters

These recommendations represent the combined efforts of two working groups. Discussion of the workshop on "information technology for disaster management in urban areas noted the important role that information plays in natural disaster reduction, emphasizing the kinds of information needed to mitigate disasters, the users of this information, and ways to use this information. The discussion in the workshop on "international networking for anticipation and mitigation of natural disasters" was aided by a lead-in presentation by the Chinese National Center for Seismic Data and Information (NCSDI), an operational Internet and Intranet solution for the sharing of seismic data and information. The group recommended the adoption of a "culture of networking and sharing".

1. Promote communication on natural disaster reduction through appropriate and available information technology, such as the Internet. Communication should include exchange of information and experiences among scientists themselves, among administrators themselves, among educators and information specialists themselves, and among scientists, educators, information specialists and administrators, and with other relevant groups.

2. Relate types of information on natural disasters to their uses. Use long- and medium-term data to elaborate planning activities, training programmes, and the development and enforcement of legal frameworks of codes and regulations. Use short-term data to organize drills and to intensify public awareness and preparedness. Use imminent data for evacuation, if appropriate. Information in all time frames should be shared, as deemed appropriate by relevant governments, through an appropriate mixture of information technology, including telephone, fax, Internet, Intranets, and face-to-face meetings.

3. Develop a global network of natural disaster information, to be viewed as a tool for disaster research, mitigation and response and not a mere repository of data on the Intern. Consider user needs and the use of the most appropriate medium and interface. Simple telephone-based technologies and fax communication can complement sophisticated computer-based information systems and are often more reliable. Include in the information network, data on population, social behaviors and information on "lessons learned" during and after disasters, as well as scientific data, in order to provide a common information resource for scientists as well as public administrators. Principles for data collection include: (a) accuracy; (b) timeliness and consistency; and (c) collection and dissemination via "conventional" networks.

4. Design the information network to permit easy use, through, for example, common interface elements for a global network of disaster information systems to ensure rapid user familiarization. Organize network users for participation in regular drilling and training sessions to ensure proficiency in the use of the system as well as to gain a sense of ownership of the information system. Design network outreach or "marketing" functions, together with user education and training, as integrated aspects of all information network developments and budgets. Develop mechanisms for training and expert help-lines for network users who need assistance in data interpretation and analysis. Low cost tools should be developed that allow for interaction on the Internet, World Wide Web, and other communication networks.

5. Address technical problems, including varying local infrastructures, conversion between different spatial data types and formats, and the need for better data compression schemes so that large scientific data sets can be more easily exchanged. Some standardization of data catalog is also needed. The UN Global Programme should work closely with other global information initiatives (such as the G7 Gemini Project, which facilitates international disaster information exchange) and networks such as the Emergency Preparedness Information Exchange (EPIX), to participate in and promote truly global initiatives.

6. Develop regular testing procedures for information networks, under extreme conditions and user load, to ensure network readiness. Organize comparative studies and linking to existing international disaster information networks in order to further assess inter-operability and other network design issues.

7. Promote the adequate funding for a functional global information network, and particularly the development of funding to assist developing countries in building the information infrastructure necessary for their full participation in international networks for natural disaster reduction.

8. Encourage children, youths, students, and schools to be involved in network activities, through, among other things, curriculum development, exercises and drills, for a global network of schools that would share experiences in disaster-related scientific investigations.

9. Promote conferences at international, national and local levels to encourage cross-fertilization among disciplines related to natural disaster reduction and to develop momentum towards a "culture of disaster awareness and reduction". Within the context of the Global Programme, organize periodic international conferences on issues of natural disaster reduction through integration of public administration and science, in order to review work accomplished and to recommend work to be done.

10. Facilitate further discussion and dissemination of information on issues raised in this conference through the Global Programme home page (http:/www.shore.net/~globalw/ungp/), including sharing of Email addresses for all conference participants of the conference to continue to contribute to the integration of public administration and the science of disasters.

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