InaSAFE and OpenDRI at State of the Map Africa

Guest authors:

Tim Sutton, Co-Founder of Kartoza (an open source geospatial solutions firm), and manages technical aspects of the business, developing and designing the architecture for software solutions for clients around the world.

Gavin Fleming, Co-Founder of Kartoza, is a Professional GISc Practitioner, is a Charter Member of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) and enjoys helping helping communities solve problems with open software and open data.

In countries across Africa, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) specialists in government institutions and civil society are using a new breed of tools and approaches to reduce the impact of disasters and improve response. From 3-7 July in Kampala, a training course was held where a number of specialists from OpenDRI projects throughout Africa learned about some of these tools and approaches. This was followed by participation in the first African State of the Map (SoTM) conference.

One of these tools is InaSAFE. The InaSAFE project, initiated as a partnership between the World Bank, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the Australian Government and BNPB Indonesia, is being adopted by DRR practitioners around the world. InaSAFE provides a platform for users to reproduce historical scenarios (e.g. a large flood event that occurred in the past) or use predictive or probabilistic scenarios (e.g. a 100-year flood) to investigate the potential impact on population, roads, buildings, crops and so on. In addition to flood impact analysis, InaSAFE provides analysis tools for a number of other hazards, including earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and more and is able to accommodate the addition of new hazards as needed, and is published under a ‘copyleft’ license. This means that the software can freely be copied and shared (along with QGIS, its underlying platform), making the barrier to entry very low for use of the tool by DRR practitioners. The open nature of the software and the specific architectural approach allow it flexibility and easy customization to the specific needs of a geographic region, institution, or government agency.

In collaboration with the World Bank and GFDRR, Kartoza (lead developers of the InaSAFE software) have been working to support the use of InaSAFE in Africa, particularly in regions that are especially prone to disasters. From Niger to Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi – as well as Madagascar and the Comoros – DRR practitioners have been implementing information and technology based approaches to mitigating the risk of disasters in their communities.

InaSAFE is available as a desktop application as well as on the web, where it is being used in automated workflows to produce ‘near real-time’ reports following flood events in Jakarta, earthquakes in Indonesia and (still in development) volcanic ash-fall in Indonesia. The InaSAFE real-time solution approach can be deployed in other contexts with minimal development effort. A web solution is available as a simplified version of the desktop application. It integrates with GeoNode and can be used for ad-hoc online analysis. An early demonstration version can be accessed here.

The goal of InaSAFE is to support disaster risk management professionals, particularly in the contingency planning and post-disaster response phases, by providing a quick estimate of the affected population, infrastructure or land cover. This is achieved through GIS overlay analysis techniques and produces both raw-data products (GIS layers) and ready-to-use reports (PDF, HTML) that provide breakdowns of:

– people by age, gender and other demographic groups where possible
– building type (e.g. schools, residences etc.)
– road type (primary, secondary, residential etc.)
– land cover type (e.g. urban settlement, agricultural land etc.)

InaSAFE provides a useful tool in the quest to achieve the goals of the Sendai Framework, which aims to reduce the impact of disasters to below 2015 levels by the year 2030. The software project takes an open, collaborative approach and encourages the active participation of new stakeholders in the project.

In July 2017, the InaSAFE team had the opportunity to present another training course to DRR practitioners. The training integrates various disciplines, such as the creation and use of open data sets (in particular OpenStreetMap), fundamental GIS skills (through the use of QGIS) and skills in using InaSAFE. The course was presented in English and French at Makerere University in Kampala and was attended by thirty DRR practitioners from government agencies and universities in Niger, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Uganda.


Experts from GFDRR provided training to more than 30 disaster risk management professionals in using and customizing QGIS and InaSAFE, a flexible risk information analysis tool.

In addition to funding training activities around InaSAFE, GFDRR (through Kartoza) has also been contributing towards the development of training materials (which are also published under an open licence) of both QGIS and InaSAFE. These materials are freely available here.

After the training course, all the World Bank delegates and two Kartoza staff attended the State of the Map Africa conference, also at Makerere University. There were well over a hundred attendees from all over Africa and beyond and many exciting OSM-related initiatives were showcased. It was evident that OSM, HOT, TeachOSM, YouthMappers and others are thriving, certainly in west, East and Central African hot spots. The OSM bug has a way to go to penetrate the rest of the continent. However, his conference was a great kickstart to deepening OSM engagement, and helped to spread the core ideas of the World Bank’s Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) to help countries better manage their climate and disaster risk.