Technology is changing the world around us, and creating new opportunities to solve old problems. The number of Internet users, and the devices they connect to the Internet, will continue to grow rapidly in the next decade.  The Internet of Things will take root in our everyday lives, and create new and powerful data streams.

This “big data” has the potential to be of tremendous value in many aspects of business and everyday life.  One potential benefit can be helping to mitigate catastrophic events by enhancing preparedness, reducing the impact of catastrophic events, increasing the efficiency of humanitarian response, and enabling the more rapid recovery of business and livelihoods.

Over the past few years Microsoft has looked at how we could use our passion for innovative technology to make a difference in people's everyday lives, so supporting humanitarian relief and disaster management efforts has become part of our commitment to developing technology solutions, tools, and practices that can foster social and economic change. Whether it is by deploying emergency connectivity kits, enabling communications for aid workers and first responders as we recently did in the Philippines, or developing mapping tools and imagery to enhance response organizations’ analysis and resource deployment planning, we believe technology can truly make a difference.

To this end we partnered with the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils on Catastrophic Risks, Future of the Internet and Data Driven Development, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to bring key stakeholders together at a workshop this week on the “Role of Big Data in Increasing Security and Resilience to Catastrophic Events” at George Washington University. 

The workshop featured a number of leaders in government, industry, and NGOs focused on responses to catastrophic events.  The participants discussed issues such as:

  • How big data and big data analytics can provide actionable information to citizens and infrastructure owners and operators before, during, and after a catastrophic event. 
  • How critical infrastructure owners and operators can use data from multiple sources to mitigate, protect, respond, and recover from potentially catastrophic events.
  • How public-private partnerships can address barriers to the sharing of information related to potential and occurring catastrophes.

We are honored to participate in this worthwhile discussion.