SUNY Korea’s Research into ICT for Disaster Risk Reduction

Although disasters have affected human societies throughout history, their frequency and intensity are increasing in the early years of the 21st century. Those who seek to prevent disasters or to manage them and improve public safety response face two realities. One is the threat to environmental, human, and planetary sustainability posed by climate change on the one hand and international terrorism and military conflicts on the other. The second is the potential of digital networks and related technologies to address sustainability issues, including the reduction of disaster risks.

This research focus area centers on next-generation networks and related digital technologies that can impact disaster risk reduction (DRR). They include, among others, advanced-generation (currently LTE) public safety networks, robotics, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality.

Disaster risk reduction, as understood in this focus area, follows the Sendai Framework, adopted at a UN World Conference in 2015. Among its innovations, the framework shifts the focus from disaster loss to disaster risk, from disaster management to disaster risk management. It also broadens the scope of the effort to include slow-onset, man-made and biohazards. 

Furthermore, the Sendai Framework aims to mobilize and coordinate existing networks and scientific research institutions at all levels and in all regions. The research area strongly complements the existing research areas of interest at SBU and SUNY Korea. South Korea will launch the world’s first nationwide public safety LTE network at the end of 2018 and SUNY Korea is part of a unique public-private partnership aimed at preparing Korea and the world for the capabilities that these new networks offer for disaster risk reduction.

The main partners include the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in Songdo, The Korean Red Cross and International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) both located at SUNY Korea, and SafeNet Forum, Korea’s rough equivalent of FirstNet in the U.S. and comparable organizations in the U.K., Canada and other countries.

The UNISDR has long-term arrangements with the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MOIS) of the Republic of Korea and Incheon Metropolitan City to work with city leaders, the private sector, universities, the science community, as well as other NGOs and international organizations to help develop capacity to advance risk reduction policies in line with the Hyogo Framework for Action and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) 2015-2030 that was approved by the Third United Nations World Conference on DRR which took place in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan.  

UNISDR-GETI is located in Songdo at our neighbor’s campus, Yonsei University. The United Nations Institute for Disaster Risk Reduction Global Education and Training Institute is also a member of Safe-Net and partner organization in the development and promotion of our M.S in Technological Systems Management – focus on Digital Technologies for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Even closer, the Red Cross Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Center (APDC) is located on the SUNY Korea campus. This reference center is a joint project of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in conjunction with the Republic of Korea National Red Cross (KNRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Asia Pacific Regional Office. The KNRC reaches out of disaster victims throughout Korea and even internationally. SUNY Korea research works together with the APDC to support their goals of resource optimization, knowledge development and sharing, and partnership expansion and brokering to implement resilience policies and strategies. 

As the next generations of public safety digital networks become increasingly ubiquitous and offer an expanding range of new capabilities, the need for research-based education and training increases. Building the new networks, as Korea is doing, provides essential infrastructure. However, optimal use of the capabilities provided by the new public safety network infrastructures will require new forms of ICT literacy. We anticipate increased research and training needs for the following target groups.

• Government officials at the national, regional and local levels who have responsibility for public safety

• Emergency services personnel also referred to as “first responders”

• Volunteers and staff of NGOs such as the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and others

• Citizens

As SUNY Korea is a member of the Safe-Net Forum that provides a forum for fairness and transparency in the development of the national public safety LTE network, our researchers are well-placed to connect with officials in Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MOIS) and specifically with the Administrators of National Disaster and Safety Management, the Emergency Preparedness Bureau, the Public Safety Policy Office and the Safe-Net Project Division. Other relevant members of the Safe-Net Forum are the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) as well as Korea Rail.

Relevant connections are also maintained with the First-Net project in the United States that recently received over US$ 7 billion from proceeds from auctioning mobile radio spectrum to telecommunications providers. The US is also moving rapidly towards developing a national public safety infrastructure.

Many of the problems are seen around the equator, in the Pacific, South Asia and Southeast Asia. This research can provide important opportunities for collaboration with organizations such as the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC)-Thailand, Central Asia Regional Centre for Disaster Response and Disaster Risk Reduction (based in Kazakhstan), Asian Advisory Group of Parliamentarians for Disaster Risk Reduction, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM)-  India, Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA-Mongolia), PLAN INTERNATIONAL INC.-Philippines, Ministry of Civil Affairs of China, National Agency for Disaster Management-Indonesia (BNPB), Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). Others include international organizations such as the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD), and United Nations Project Office on Governance (UNPOG).