Tyler Suiters                      

Hey everybody, I'm Tyler Suiters with Consumer Technology Association. We are the owners and producers of CES, the most influential tech event on the planet. We are here to help you get CES ready. The upcoming show is January 7th through the 10th, 2020, as always in Las Vegas. Today, we're discussing a relatively new category at CES, the idea of resilience. Look no further than the U.S. Hurricane season for evidence of why this is a critical topic for us.

Tyler Suiters                      

We loosely define resilience as technology that will help the world with disaster preparedness and response. It's innovation to keep us all healthy, safe, warm, powered, fed and secure. This is where technology comes in on the front side to help mitigate, right, address problems before they arise during disaster. Then of course the most natural application is recovery, what happens after a storm, an earthquake, a natural disaster has occurred.

Tyler Suiters                      

One aspect of that is strengthening the resilience of critical infrastructure. That's the proactive approach. Reactively, technology to help bounce back operationally during and immediately after a crisis. Addressing these topics today, two guests from the World Bank, a global organization, that is working in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world, both vulnerable monetarily and environmentally, to help use technology and strengthen resilience.

Tyler Suiters                      

With us today from the World Bank to talk resilience are Emma Phillips Solomon, who is senior disaster risk management specialist, and Vivien Deparday, who is disaster risk management specialist as well. Good to have you both with us. Thank you.

Vivien Deparday              

Thank you for having us.

Emma Phillips Solomon

Yeah, thanks Tyler.

Tyler Suiters                      

Emma, let's start with you. Just a quick overview, if you would, of the World Bank's position in resilience. How and why did this get started?

Emma Phillips Solomon

Sure. Thank you. First off, thanks very much for inviting us to be here. We're very excited to be here. Vivien and I both work in a team called the global facility for disaster reduction and recovery. It's housed in the World Bank. Our focus is really around building disaster risk management and helping countries be more prepared for disasters. Why this is really critical at the World Bank is because the World Bank really has two main goals, that is to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity in developing countries around the world.

Emma Phillips Solomon

What happens when a disaster hits is often all of the economic development and work and prosperity that's been generated over the years can be wiped out and a lot of people can be pushed into poverty. So, our job is to really think about how can we build resilience, how can we make people more prepared for disasters, how can they recover resiliently and quickly. That's essentially why it's an important agenda and some of the work that we do. Then specifically in the team that we work in at GFDR we manage an innovation lab. Our job is to think about how can we use the latest developments in science and technology and apply them to some of these big disastrous management challenges that our clients are facing.

Tyler Suiters                      

Vivien, let's talk about that a little bit. Resilience is very much an element of CES every year in Las Vegas, something we talk about at length and technology is involved. Our loose definition of resilience is ensuring that we are safe, warm, clothed, sheltered, fed, healthy. We could go on with all of those adjectives. How does it fit for you? How do you at the World Bank define resilience?

Vivien Deparday              

I think there's many definitions, but one way we looked at it from the disaster risk management angle is we look at different type of activities to build that resilience and make sure people can bounce back from a disaster, but also mitigate the impact of disaster. We look at it by first trying to understand the risk that people are facing or infrastructure are facing. That's kind of the very beginning of our approach and process is understanding the context and the risk. Then from there we first try to look at how can we mitigate and reduce the risk to population infrastructures and the economy. Then from there, once we can reduce some risk, we look at how can we better prepare for some of the potential disaster and hazard.

Vivien Deparday              

Then we reduced the risk first. Then we prepare for the risks we cannot reduce. Then after that, even if we have a very large disaster we cannot take everything into account, so then we look at how can we bounce back from a disaster, recover, what we call build back better. When we recover from a disaster, how can we do it in a better way to avoid a future impact too. That's kind of how we look at it in term of a very concrete, practical action and in term of a bit of what's sometimes called a disaster cycle in some way.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well Emma, before we talk about the state of play on resilience right now, can we go back five 10 20 years, you pick the time period, to the state of play then. Can you give us an idea of just how much technology has changed this sector in the last, let's say decade or so?

Emma Phillips Solomon

Yeah. I would say there are two changes that we've seen in probably the last decade or two decades. One was in the disastrous management field we were very response focused. I think that is one change that we've seen that we're thinking we shouldn't just be responding to disasters, we need to be prepared. We need to be doing things before disaster strikes. Having this change in mentality and thinking we need to understand our risk first, and then once we understand our risk we can take measures to reduce that risk or mitigate that risk. That's one shift we've seen.

Emma Phillips Solomon

Then what's happened with all the technology and advances is that we're able to do this quicker, better, faster. In many ways what we're seeing now is just more and more data and information out there. We're getting more open data from satellites. We're getting more tools that we can use that are easily accessible, simple to use, whether that's mobile phones or smart phones, drones to collect more and more information. We're able to engage more people in the process. Everyone's walking around with a mobile phone now and they can understand and participate in this process. So what you're seeing is this movement where a lot of communities, people can be involved in the process of understanding their risk and they can provide the information.

Emma Phillips Solomon

Once we have the information and the risk data, then we can actually make those decisions and say, okay how are we going to prevent future risk, how are we going to be thinking about where are our hazard zones, where our are flood zones, are we going to build in those zones, we're going to try and avoid building our infrastructure, our schools in these flood prone areas. I think all of the technology and advances has just really enabled us to have so much more information and data, and also engage a wide population in the process.

Tyler Suiters                      

Vivien, is it an oversimplification on my part to say that the two key elements here that technology has delivered recently are one part communication and one part data collection and analysis? Is that fair, or is that just too basic?

Vivien Deparday              

Yeah, no, I think that's fair. I think the part we're looking at a lot is that part on how can we have a better understanding of this very complex phenomenon because there is many factor interacting. There's natural and geophysical and weather aspect. There's a human aspects of when we start building, we interact with nature and we change the way a hazard may be. We might increase it, we might reduce it. I think understanding all of these aspects together can be quite complicated, and so having all this new technology allows to be able to do that in a quicker way. Then yes, all the data communication can allow us then to engage in more people in collecting this information, but also in term of disseminating that information to people. Yes, I would say that's quite correct.

Tyler Suiters                      

Well, I think you're being generous to me for sure. What is the role of innovation now? I'll phrase it as I did earlier, the current state of play. How quickly is innovation happening and how quickly or effectively is that impacting disaster mitigation right now?

Vivien Deparday              

Yeah. I think we're looking at a lot of the innovations that's happening in other sector and in the private sector. We're looking at another, and I mentioned that was a satellite imagery and the new satellites that are coming available, or the drones aspect. I think now we can use drones more and more. We've been using, for instance, drone in a lot of places. In Africa we use local drone operators to collect more information. We're kind of looking at some of this existing innovation and then translating them, adapting them to the context of disaster risk management. Resilience work is not necessarily the first place where they're getting applied.

Vivien Deparday              

Similar idea with the machine learning and AI that we hear a lot about these days. We are also looking at how we can adapt some of these approaches and use it on different type of data and on different type of issues that are usually used in the first place. So how can we use, for instance, AI and machine learning to understand the satellite imagery or drone imagery with regards to vulnerability to hazard, or so that we can understand better how these type of houses may be more vulnerable than others, or after a disaster can we use all these kind of new computer visions and imagery to understand what has been inspected the most, where is a need for help or where is a need for investment and so on.

Vivien Deparday              

We're doing a bit at work of looking at what's out there and then translating that and adapting that to that world. Yeah, and so that includes imagery, AI and machine learning, some internet of things too. Sensors are very important, especially when you think about floods, for instance. A lot of information about weather, what the rivers and so on is required and necessary to understand this phenomenon, to be able to forecast and so on. These are some of the trends we're looking at and applying in various places, yes.

Tyler Suiters                      

How big or broad is the technology divide, or the capability divide, between a country that's dealing with disaster that is on the cusp of 5G and has deep connectivity and strong communications networks and and the kind of national or federal satellite imagery that means everything's available versus what I would imagine is a country that would need the most help, that would have the most trouble recovering that doesn't have these resources? How large is that chasm?

Emma Phillips Solomon

Well I think, as you mentioned, we are working in mainly middle income, low income countries and we face a lot of different challenges that you would face say working and living in the United States. We work in environments where they might be fragile, they might have conflict, it might be difficult to be able to actually get on the ground and work there. We also work in environments where there's not a lot of data, there's not a lot of information. When you go and you try and figure out areas and you look at the maps that are available and they're from the 1970s, or the information hasn't been digitized, there's proprietary data. We face a lot of challenges I think in some of the places that we work, but at the same time there's this opportunity of leapfrogging, of taking some of these technologies and saying how can we do this with innovation, how can we use people, communities, university students, local government to all be engaged in the process and use the tools that are available.

Emma Phillips Solomon

As you know in Africa, most people do actually have mobile phones and can go out and collect information. I think our job is really looking at what's out there, all the exciting technology and innovation, and then seeing what we can apply on the ground, and also working together. One of the key kind of aspects or fundamental approach that we believe in is this idea of co-development. It's not about taking some technology and applying it in a country and then delivering a consultant, delivering the technology, and then leaving. It's about working together and co-developing technology that works in the context that we work in.

Tyler Suiters                      

That's a lovely way to put it and clearly it's effective too. How do you sow the seeds of technology in what would be a third world country? How does it start?

Vivien Deparday              

[inaudible 00:14:00].

Tyler Suiters                      

Sow the seeds, how do you grow it? Emma, you put it so beautifully that you don't just put technology in place, show someone how to use it and pull out. You're there for a longer haul, right. This is about teaching people to fish, not just fishing for them.

Vivien Deparday              

Yes, exactly. A lot of our focus is really on creating those local collaboration between local government, local universities, potentially international expert to develop this kind of approach. For instance, maybe we're doing a lot of mapping using cell phones and satellite imagery with local students across Africa, even across Asia, where we have more than like 500 students who have been trained to use their mobile phone and to use their computer to be able create a detailed map of the area. Then slowly they also start teaching other students and it has a bit of a snowball effect where we have a bit of a geo-mapping revolution in Africa ongoing right now where you're-

Tyler Suiters                      

You're crowdsourcing in some sense.

Vivien Deparday              

Yeah, exactly. It's a mix of crowdsourcing and skill building and local ownership too so that the data is open and belong to the people who are collecting it and then can be reused in many contexts. That's one example. Even it doesn't, it's not limited just to mobile phone. We have a more advanced also kind of use cases for instance. Drones, you could think is kind of something that's quite advanced, but now a lot of people even build their own drone. Even in in Tanzania in Africa we have example of young entrepreneurs building their own drones and then starting to provide services to other government and countries and companies.

Vivien Deparday              

I think this kind of making the knowledge available, the data available, the technology available, then we see a lot of energy from the local use to develop new solutions to help with resilience.

Tyler Suiters                      

As far as case studies go, and this is a generalization, but in the west, we get excited, and Vivien you mentioned drone use. We're excited for our latest shopping deliveries to come via drone, or that I might be able to get a pizza while it's still piping hot, or my latte can come without a single drop spilled when I'm downtown. But then you look to say sub-Saharan Africa and we're talking about delivering blood supplies to remote areas, to the use of drones post-earthquake in Nepal, places like that. Emma, do you have a favorite case study or a favorite example, or something that brings the life and the color to how technology is enabling resilience on the ground right now somewhere around the globe? I imagine maybe like an 18-way tie, so many.

Emma Phillips Solomon

Well, I think we've touched on, a lot of the work that both Vivien and I have been doing has been in Africa. I think the most exciting project that I think we see at the moment is our Open Cities Africa project. We're engaging in 12 cities across Africa. We're engaging with local communities as well as local governments, so city officials. We're working with them to define what are their big challenges that they face. Often, for the most part it's urban flooding. You're living in areas that are flooding, but the flooding is also exacerbated by the fact that there's a lot of solid waste issues and drains are blocked. There's a lot of data and information that you really need to understand on the ground. You can't just take aerial imagery and do flood risk assessments and understand what's happening because of these very specific occurrences that are happening.

Emma Phillips Solomon

I think what's exciting in this project is that we're engaging all of these different stakeholders. Vivien mentioned we engage the vulnerable communities themselves that are living in these informal settlements and they are learning how to collect information about where they live, where the houses are, where the shelters are, and they're able to contribute to this process. Then you're engaging students who are also working at university and they're participating in this and learning skills and sharing this information. Then government is able to participate and use this information to make informed decisions. So, you've got this great ecosystem of all these different players that are working together, and they're all working towards building resilience in their communities. I think that's probably the most exciting thing to see.

Emma Phillips Solomon

It's also exciting to see the skills development that Vivien mentioned, so people are learning skills, and then also entrepreneurship. We're working with a lot of local tech startups that are seeing all of this and seeing the job opportunities and being able to think about the future. It's an exciting combination of building awareness of risk, getting everyone involved in the process, building skills, and then also building potential job opportunities in areas that people probably didn't have a lot of hope, but here they're finding something that they can find hope in.

Tyler Suiters                      

I think a lot of ears perked up when you said it's entrepreneurial. That's very much the technology sector in the U.S. or globally, the startup mentality. It seems like the World Bank has a bit of a call to action to the tech community. What is that? To use another entrepreneurial term, what's the pitch? What is your message to that community about how they can help?

Vivien Deparday              

Yeah, it builds on a lot of what was just said by Emma. I think it's really working with some of these local partners to develop solutions that are locally run. They might not have all the knowledge, but they can learn very, very quickly, but also bring that local context to the issue in the technology. I think really having this kind of a mentoring relationship and skill building relationship with some of these very dynamic and full of energy youth in all the places where we are working is one of the best thing that can happen I think because I think with just a little seeds, a bit of knowledge and with all the energy and passion, and also the will to get engaged and to solve the issue from the local population and student, I think then you will have results you wouldn't necessarily expect. I think that's also very exciting is, yeah, really having those collaboration between various expert and also local knowledge and local talents.

Tyler Suiters                      

Two final questions for you both. Biggest challenge that you see right now in the field of resilience globally?

Emma Phillips Solomon

I think that the biggest challenge that we're facing is actually how to communicate risk, how to communicate very complex scientific information, how to get information into the hands of people that they can understand it, that they can take action. This is an area that we're still working on. I think we've had a few competitions, and I want to talk about a recent competition that we held in partnership with Mapbox-

Tyler Suiters                      

Oh please.

Emma Phillips Solomon

This was around visualizing risk. We held this visualizing risk competition. The idea was to put out all this data. We've been talking a lot about data collection and how important it is to have the risk information to make decisions, but then how do you actually take that and put it in a format that people can understand it and say I know what to do now.

Tyler Suiters                      

And then act upon, right.

Emma Phillips Solomon

And then act upon it. So with this visualization of risk challenge we did with Mapbox, we put out all of this data and about 260 people from 60 countries in the world applied and they put together all of these interactive storytelling maps and interfaces, taking the data and telling stories through maps and data visualization. That's a very intuitive and easy way to understand. It's better than delivering reports and numbers.

Emma Phillips Solomon

What we saw is, for instance in the Philippines, one of the winning teams they put together a story around where to place evacuation centers in a very flood risk area. The idea was you could walk through and see this is the area that's prone to flooding, these are where the evacuation centers are located, are they in flood risk zones, aren't they. These are the number of people, the population, that would need to access the evacuation center if there's a flood. Is there enough capacity? It's all in this interactive storyboard that you can scroll through. It's just a very interesting way to communicate and reach a broader audience.

Tyler Suiters                      

I think you may have already answered my next question, which is the most exciting opportunity that you all see.

Vivien Deparday              

I guess then, yeah I think the opportunities that we're having more and more data and information available, but how do we build the skills to use that information. As we mentioned I think throughout, it's one thing to get event data and information, but then you also need to be able to apply it and use it act upon it, as you mentioned. I think this is where I think now we are getting to a place where we have a lot more information and understanding that we did like maybe 10 years or 20 years ago in some of these phenomenon, but then how do we build those skills to really take that information to act in a more resilient society. That goes from the local cities and to the businesses themselves to the governments. That goes really across all society and how we can use that information to be a more resilient society.

Tyler Suiters                      

Emma Phillips Solomon and Vivien Deparday are with the World Bank in disaster risk management. Let's talk more resilience at CES because I feel we're just scratching the surface. Thank you both.

Emma Phillips Solomon

Thank you very much.

Vivien Deparday              

Thank you very much.

Tyler Suiters                      

All right, coming up next time on CES Tech Talk, just think for a moment how many times have you engaged with technology just today? What have you done? Now, imagine doing any of that, just a single task, without actually seeing your screen.

Speaker 4                           

We've created technology that allow people with visual impairments to access anything on a computer, on mobile devices, whether it's your smartphone or tablet. Then we've created devices for people who may have challenges in reading any kind of print material.

Tyler Suiters                      

A conversation about accessibility technology from a first-person perspective, that's coming up next time on CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

Now we want you to be CES ready, so be sure to subscribe to the CES Tech Talk podcast. That way you won't miss any episodes leading up to the big show. Speaking of CES 2020, get these dates in mind, January 7th through the 10th in Las Vegas. The information you need is at ces.tech. As always, nothing about this podcast would be possible without our true stars of the show, executive producer Tina Anthony and our senior studio engineer, John Lindsey. You all are the best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's talk tech again soon.

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