A study by the UN ECLAC Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean
The following text was adapted from the paper:
When disasters have hit the Caribbean, they have been devastating – killing people, destroying economies, and reversing hard-earned development gains. Hurricane Ike, in 2008, is estimated to have caused over US$7 billion worth of damage in Cuba alone, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed well over 100,000 people – a number compounded by inadequate building codes, poor land use decisions, and tough living conditions.
The small economies of the region do not have the resilience to easily absorb the shock caused by natural disasters. The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank reports that in 1995, because of Hurricane Luis, Antigua and Barbuda saw losses of 4,000 to 7,000 jobs, representing an estimated 15-25% of the workforce. Anguilla too was hit by Hurricane Luis, and saw real output decline by 4.2%. The damage caused to St. Kitts and Nevis by Hurricane Georges in 1998 represented a value of almost twice the nation’s annual GDP. The reduction in growth and cost of reconstruction from disasters like these has contributed to the high burdens of national debt that many Caribbean countries continue to struggle with.
Disaster occurrences cannot be eliminated, but they can be better managed. The successful management of emergency situations requires proper planning, guided response, and well-coordinated efforts across the disaster management life cycle.
The professionals responsible for the coordination of disaster response face difficult challenges in times of disaster. Managing priorities, capacities, locations, and the expectations of governments and the public is a complex and dynamic endeavour. In addition, given the turbulent nature of disaster situations, the people and systems at disaster management offices are subjected to information overload, which can obstruct timely and accurate decision making.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be used support the practice of disaster risk management (DRM) in times of crisis, as well as in times of planning and in times of reconstruction. The revolutionary potential of ICTs lies in their ability to instantaneously connect vast networks of individuals and organizations across great geographic distances, and to facilitate fast flows of information, capital, ideas, people and products. ICTs have become essential tools for cooperation and collaboration.
This paper examines the role of information and communications technologies for disaster risk management with a specific focus on the Caribbean. The study includes a review of the literature and case studies, as well the administration of a survey instrument that collected the feedback of 13 regional national DRM agencies.
Analysis of the survey suggests that, while subregional disaster management agencies have fairly good access to technology infrastructure and enjoy an information sharing culture, challenges exist with regard to the information governance frameworks as well as the capacity and availability of human capital with regard to ICT. The study findings indicate that the regional DRM sector would do well to:
- Deepen connections with policy makers and other communities of practice
- Modernize ICT Infrastructure for DRM
- Consider a subregional e-strategy for DRM
- Improve ICT governance
- Urgently develop programmes of ICT human capacity development.