Google asked to develop app on disaster risks

PASAY CITY (MindaNews/1 May) — Senator Loren Legarda on Wednesday asked search engine company Google’s developers to consider creating an application that would identify disaster risks in certain areas, collating information available from national government agencies.

Speaking at Google’s crisis response summit at the SMX Convention Center, Legarda said Google would be in the best position to create a tool as it is already working with governments around the world through its products.

The senator cited Barangay Andap in Compostela Valley, which was hit by typhoon Pablo in December 2012, and said the deaths in the barangay could have been avoided had the government been aware of flood hazards in the area.

“Google’s partnership with the government must be increased and must endure,” she said.

She cited the government had developed tools such as the Department of Science and Technology’s Project NOAH, which can give users an image of flood-prone areas in the country.

Legarda said the creation of a “risk finder” application would enable government agencies and other users to make sound management decisions regarding the use of potentially hazard-prone areas.

She said Google could avail of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s identified risk and vulnerability areas as well as existing multi-hazard risk assessment documents from a study conducted by AusAID.

Legarda, who chairs the Senate committee on climate change, said her office could provide data from studies they conducted.

She said Google should create the app and include data on landslides and earthquakes.

“This is not just for earthquakes,” Legarda said. “You can use this to build schools. You can do this for agriculture, for farmers and fisherfolk.”

Meryl Stone, partner development manager at Google, said the company’s Person Finder application has already been used in disasters such as after typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Visayas in November last year.

She said the search engine company was already planning to partner with the Philippine government in creating a Google Public Alerts program that would give the government a direct line to its citizens regarding important announcements, especially during times of disasters.

“We believe that information should be out there in the internet and that people don’t have to go to a specific website to get information,” Stone said.

Public Alerts would allow for information such as tsunami alerts to automatically appear on Google’s homepage, customized depending on the user’s location.

Stone said that in their experience, there was a void in information during disasters, with people mostly relying on the internet.

She said that during the earthquake in Japan in 2011, keyword searches for ‘tsunami’ spiked, especially in Hawaii, a US state in the Pacific.

She added disasters were a crucial period in which information was needed the most, and that the internet should be a ready source. (MindaNews)