Louise K. Comfort
Designing Information Systems for Managing Global Crises: Paradox and Possibility
The scope, scale, and complexity of information needed to manage global crises is
demonstrated by the current pandemic precipitated by the novel coronavirus, SARSCoV2, or
COVID-19. As nation after nation reeled from the rapid progression of the disease with its
consequent rates of hospitalizations and deaths, decision makers struggled to gain timely,
valid information about the characteristics of the disease, its origin, rate and mode of
transmission, and patterns of interaction with other health conditions. In the absence of
known information about the deadly virus, decision makers adopted varying strategies of
managing the scant information available for the disease and seeking systematic methods to communicate information about the threat to the populations at risk. The paradox of
information technology is that it communicates false rumors as quickly as valid information
and adds the critical task of countering disinformation to the many other demands of crisis
management. This paper briefly examines the uses of information technology in managing
information communicated to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.
Louise K. Comfort is Professor and former Director of the Center for Disaster Management in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
Her most recent book is The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events, Princeton University Press, June 2019. She currently serves as Chief Editor, Social Sciences, for the Natural Hazards Review and on the Editorial Boards of the American Review of Public Administration and Public Organization Review.
ISCRAM for Empowerment: Lessons from the Refugee Geographic Information Systems project (RefuGIS) Of Jordan (2019-2020)
Information systems for crisis response and management are often a series of tools, technologies and approaches available to people and organizations with a high amount of technical, educational, and professional capacity. However, often the actual survivors of long-term crisis events are the ones that would most benefit from having the capacity to use ISCRAM approaches. In this keynote, we will discuss our experiences from the Refugee Geographic Information Systems (RefuGIS) of Jordan. RefuGIS is the world's first project to empower refugees to utilize the power of Geographic Information Systems for livelihood development and decision-making in refugee camps and local communities. Since its initial inception in 2016, the project has now been expanded through additional support by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to include Syrian refugees and Jordanians who can both benefit from the project. Specifically, we discuss project developments between 2019-2020 that focused on new research centered on the use of maps for community decision-making plus our experiences with overcoming the challenges and identifying opportunities presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Brian Tomaszewski directs the Center for Geographic Information Science and Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY USA. He is also an Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Games and New Media at RIT and is an adjunct professor with the Centre for Disaster Management and Mitigation at the Vellore Institute of Technology, India.
Response, Recovery and Resiliency: Actions Taken, Lessons Learned and Moving Forward following the Tragic Shooting at Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007
The tragedy that befell Virginia Tech in April of 2007 was unprecedented, drawing worldwide attention. The speakers will discuss the organizational resiliency that was called upon during the days, weeks, months and years following the incident. Key topics include the need for transparency, effective leadership, working with impacted individuals and building upon existing practices and procedures. As September 11th changed emergency preparedness and management within state and local governments, the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois changed higher education.
Mike Mulhare is the Assistant Vice President for Emergency Management at Virginia Tech, a comprehensive land-grant university with over 36,000 students and more than 13,000 faculty and staff members.
Mr. Mulhare will be presenting with Debbie Day, who is the Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations at Virginia Tech. She has served Virginia Tech and Alumni Relations for over 30 years. She began her career in the National Capital Region, establishing Virginia Tech’s first satellite office for alumni in 1987. She moved to Blacksburg in the mid-1990’s and has worked in a variety of areas within Alumni Relations including chapters programs, reunions, student programs, community service and diversity and inclusion.
Also part of the presentation on Wednesday will be Mark Owczarski, the assistant vice president for university relations at Virginia Tech. In this role, he provides overall support for the senior associate vice president of university relations, specifically in the areas of university spokesperson, college and unit-based communications, and crisis communications.