In December 2017, the Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka (DMC) launched RiskInfo.lk as the “National Disaster Risk Information Platform” to host the country’s open geospatial data. When this work began in 2012, essential data to disaster risk management – where it existed – was scattered across different organizations, varying in format and quality. Essentially, it wasn’t available or ready to be used, and it was near-impossible for organizations to find out who had what data.
Disaster Management is a high-priority, crosscutting policy area that requires datasets from multiple agencies. Access to these datasets was historically problematic for the stakeholder agencies, research community, and the DMC, particularly for its regional offices all over Sri Lanka. This stifled efforts to make risk informed decisions as part of the development planning process to prepare for and respond to disasters.
RiskInfo was born out of efforts by the DMC, GFDRR, and the World Bank to consolidate data for disaster risk management from various partners. The DMC took the lead setting up and maintaining the online spatial data management platform, based on the GeoNode technology developed by GFDRR. This process involved unlocking data from PDFs and creating a uniform format to store hazard, exposure, risk, and base data. Its main purpose is to allow the sharing of geospatial datasets in a collaborative multi-agency (or multi-user) environment.
The RiskInfo platform has served as a foundation for building a community of practice around open geospatial data in Sri Lanka. Users have their own access credentials to upload maps and layers that can then be used by others. This system enables the easy, efficient discovery of geospatial layers such as buildings, roads, electricity lines, flood maps, and probabilistic hazard maps.
The successes of the RiskInfo platform extend beyond the online tool itself to include (1) partnerships with multiple stakeholders including government ministries and data producers and (2) capacity building to maintain the platform in-house over time. Perhaps the biggest win has been the improvement of data sharing in Sri Lanka’s institutions, which makes critical information available, usable, and increasingly valuable as a public good.
The RiskInfo platform complements ongoing implementation of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) roadmap by Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), which will directly support integrating all spatial data systems within the government.
The RiskInfo Launch
On 21st December 2017, dozens of guests from around the world were welcomed to the launch of RiskInfo by the Director General of the Disaster Management Centre. In the keynote address Mr. Wasantha Deshapriya, Secretary of the Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure, described the concept of NSDI and e-government service delivery in Sri Lanka. Guests had the chance to participate in hands-on demonstrations of the new RiskInfo Portal, and discuss ideas for additional applications of the tool in the future.
With a central platform in place, next steps involve exploring how RiskInfo can be used better during an emergency. This combines with other DMC efforts that GFDRR is supporting the DMC, like the development of a collaborative on-call Rapid Emergency Mapping Mechanism (REMM) that will be a de-facto task force for disaster response composed of geospatial experts (Surveyors, engineers, GIS and remote sensing experts, drone operators, etc.). Riskinfo.lk will undoubtedly become the backbone of future efforts in risk based data sharing to increase efficacy in disaster management in the country.