Accurate, easily accessible geographic information is crucial to good decision-making in humanitarian operations. All emergency management phases, but especially the response one, require an extremely well-organized communication between different actors, providing information timely and in an immediately understandable and not misleading format.

The main aim of the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) project is the development and implementation of a distributed geodatabase solution, to store and efficiently share geospatial data for WFP and other actors in the humanitarian sector. Geodatabase replication is used to create replica trees, allowing to distribute data across several geodatabases in a hierarchical structure. Synchronization services are used to keep all network database instances aligned in an efficient way, avoid exchanging large amounts of data over the network (network load has always been one of the critical issues inside the organization), as only the changes are sent instead of the entire datasets. The synchronization is executed automatically, during moments of low network traffic, such as overnight and during the weekends.

Thanks to the availability of a common data model for the GIS datasets, computer routines based on geoprocessing operations can be generated in the preparedness phase of the emergency cycle. These routines can then be launched in case an event occurs and perform the analyses in a semi-automatic way, with little human interaction. As a result the analyses are much faster than the usual approach and the probability of errors is lowered because all the critical aspects can be faced in the preparedness phase. Furthermore, analysis results can be easily documented and their accuracy estimated.

Moreover map templates for the most common events can be prepared in advance, during the emergency preparedness, defining layouts, symbology and map marginalia, i.e. text and logos. In such way the map production in the response phase is much faster as most of the map production steps are already performed and the most critical aspects, such as map readability among others, are faced in advance and in less stressful situations.

Expected outputs

The expected output is an operational infrastructure supporting all WFP Preparedness and Response actions by providing:

  • a common data model, shared across all levels of the organization
  • synchronization services, supporting information exchange in efficient way
  • data analysis tools, to quickly and reliably produce value-added information
  • standard symbology rules and automated map templates help in enforcing a brand perception
  • and in increasing output quality, timeliness and readability
  • conditions for setting up a GIS community

Method

The implementation of the infrastructure includes the definition, provision and configuration of all the hardware and software components needed. Furthermore, adequate capacity building actions are undertaken, granting not only the transfer of the adequate technical competences but also the formation of a corporate GIS community.

Further developments

The infrastructure will be progressively implemented, with the objective to include all the 6 Regional Bureaux and the more than 80 Country Offices. The WFP Regional Bureau for South-East Asia (OMB), located in Bangkok, hosts the pilot implementation of this distributed geodatabase.