Loren proposes online ‘risk finder’ tool at Google confab

By Chloe Cabrera

Sen. Loren Legarda urged tech giant Google to develop a “Google Risk Finder” tool that will provide geo-hazard risk information to encourage proactive interventions by various sectors and early action by the affected community.

Sen. Loren Legarda

Sen. Loren Legarda

Legarda made the call during her keynote speech at the Google Crisis Response Summit on Wednesday, April 30, at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

The whole-day summit brought together government officials and various industry representatives to share experiences, exchange best practices, and discuss possible technological solutions when it comes to crisis response, collaboration efforts, and the dissemination of vital information to the public in the event of an emergency.

Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said a “risk finder” tool with person-finding capabilities and a display of possible geo-hazard risks such as earthquakes, flooding, and landslides will be helpful to the local population.

According to the lawmaker, the country must learn to adapt and utilize its resources and technology to effectively deal with unavoidable natural hazards.

“Fundamentally, building resilience requires a risk-informed population”, she emphasized.

“We could help our government sustain our country’s socio-economic gains, make a difference in poverty reduction, and eventually ensure the achievement of sustainable development goals when perennial disaster losses are substantially reduced.”

Legarda noted that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s information on the risk vulnerabilities of “every nook and cranny” in the Philippines could be used as a basis in Google’s creation of a “risk finder” tool.

Having such an online tool would also allow the government to prepare more effectively and prevent past disasters, like unknowingly building shelters and infrastructures in geo-hazard areas, she said.

Prior to Legarda’s speech, Google engineer Pete Giencke conducted a workshop on some of the tools developed by Google’s Crisis Response team.

He demonstrated the use of Google’s Public Alerts, Person Finder, and Crisis Map, which were all utilized during the country’s recent Typhoon Yolanda crisis.

According to Giencke, the tools aim to bring together information scattered all over the Web to tell people a single and compelling story through a user-friendly interface.

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Other talks included DSWD official Joel Espejo’s overview of crisis response from the government and ABS CBN senior vice president Ging Reyes’s discussion of best practices and challenges for the media during crisis coverage.

Aileen Apolo of Google Asia Pacific and Bernardo Arellano III of Google business group Iloilo also shared case studies on community involvement, particularly the existence of community “mapping summits” during crises situations.

The conference also brought together professionals from the private, public, non-profit, and media sectors to participate in a panel discussion, headed by Gail Tan and Alex Long of Google.

The discussion focused on learning from past crises, data sharing and open communications, using technology effectively, and finding solutions to the country’s main crisis response challenges.

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