Soon after the scale and scope of destruction from Typhoon Haiyan became clear, Direct Relief went to work with its technology partners at Palantir to build an efficient and effective means of pulling better information rapidly and routinely from what was obviously going to be a large-scale and long-term response effort.
Our model was the collaboration between Palantir and Team Rubicon during Hurricane Sandy, when Palantir put a simple Android mobile app in the hands of Team Rubicon volunteers, synced them up with the Palantir Gotham platform, and enabled the real-time coordination of tens of thousands of volunteer hours and disaster response work orders. In the Philippines, this model required major modifications because of the significant loss of internet connectivity.
Yet, within 24 hours of Haiyan’s landfall, Palantir had already devised a way to transfer a “lightweight” version of their mobile application to rugged satellite-enabled 2-way SMS units by Delorme, called the inReach. The inReach can send and receive text messages anywhere in the world, regardless of cell phone coverage, so the devices can be deployed with mobile teams operating anywhere in the affected area to send assessment data and receive situational analysis.
Upon learning this, Direct Relief procured and shipped more than 130 of the inReach devices as part of its Philippines response. Data from these devices is now flowing into their cutting-edge Raven platform to enable rich analytics, integrated third-party data, satellite imagery and practically unlimited data scale.
So far, inReach devices have been distributed in-country to organizations including the Philippine Red Cross, Save the Children, Team Rubicon and Access Aid International. The Philippine Red Cross is taking the lead immediately on a comprehensive health facility survey throughout the affected area to establish baseline conditions that will prove essential for understanding health needs and progress metrics throughout the relief and recovery process.
The information that comes back from these surveys and assessments into Palantir will help Direct Relief to shape its response intelligently and dynamically as events on the ground change, and to work in closer collaboration with leading organizations to help rebuild a better health system in the Philippines.