IT is likely to yield significant payoffs. Such a cadre of people is likely to be more astute at translating user requirements to technical needs. One basic need, of course, is to train a group of first responders and others responsible for disaster management in IT skills that go beyond those of a general user and to train a group of IT workers (e.g., database and system administrators and application builders) to have domain expertise in disaster management. Deeper expertise spanning both domains could be fostered through a number of mechanisms, including the following:

  • A combination of fellowships, shorter-term visits to research centers, and other training and educational activities that help technology experts and other practitioners to stay abreast of the latest developments in both practice and technology;

  • Field tests and field work conducted by IT researchers working with disaster management practitioners; and

  • Combined disaster management-IT expert teams that jointly analyze the performance of processes and systems after a disaster.

Recommendation 9: Disaster management organizations should support the development of a cadre of people with expertise in both disaster management and IT.

Especially in light of the significant non-technical factors affecting adoption of IT for disaster management, it is critical to establish mechanisms that ensure that researchers are exposed to real problems and that practitioners are exposed to new technology opportunities. Because most practitioners are distributed across local agencies, forging such ties is likely to be harder in disaster management than in sectors like defense, but it is no less important.

Collaborative research centers could bring together experts from diverse domains in a neutral environment conducive to collaboration. Such centers could (1) develop a shared understanding of the challenges in all phases of disaster management from both a technological and an organizational perspective, (2) evaluate the application of technology advances to disaster management practice, (3) develop a culture and processes for transitioning knowledge and technology to the operational communities on a sustained basis, (4) build human capital at the intersection of IT and disaster management, (5) serve as repositories for data and for lessons learned from past disasters and disaster management efforts, and (6) provide forward-looking analysis to inform the development of technology capabilities, associated organizational processes, and roadmap development. A number of academic centers exist that offer a capacity for at least some of these efforts.

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