High level technical diagram for mobile pictograph alerting

High level technical diagram for mobile pictograph alerting

Almost one year ago, I had presented a concept on the use of “pictographs in alerting” and shared the evidence for the growing need for such an initiative. This was at the 2013 CAP Implementation Workshop in Geneva. The real need was to aid the linguistically challenged: tourist in a foreign country and illiterate. Moreover, it would remove the need to for messaging in multiple languages; especially in countries that are home to a multitude of races and languages.

Although the design was prescribed for mobile phones, given it’s worldwide penetration over PCs, it does not differentiate between internet (data) or voice (SMS, Cell-broadcast) channels, it is adaptive. The idea is to use predefined EDXL-CAP elements to trigger the appropriate message. The message would indicate the urgency, severity, certainty, and event. However, the entire message is based on a set of logic determined by a larger set of EDXL-CAP elements.

The Federation of Internet Alerts (FIA) is a newly formed consortium that is collectively addressing those risk information presentation issues.  They are namely a group of public and private partners with a strong business inclination towards adverting. While was one of the pioneers to work with alerts in the advertising space, others such as ValueClick are also contributing to the initiative. They all have good intentions, namely with opening up their resources to alerting authorities to disseminate warnings.

FIA is currently in the process of standardizing how an alert message should be presented to an audience. Although CAP is a content standard, it does not address how the information should be presented. As my colleague: Eliot Christian (Special Scientific Adviser to WMO), authoring the standardization guidelines, states: “the need for FIA messaging guidelines in the presentation of public warnings arises because different online media will be presenting warnings across overlapping audiences. That means people online could receive inconsistent presentations of warnings for the same event. Inconsistent presentation of warnings can be confusing, and confusion is dangerous in life-threatening situations.” I am currently reviewing their first paper on the guidelines.

On behalf of Sahana community, I’m happy to announce that we finished the migration of Sahana Vesuvius from Launchpad to GitHub. All the code and bugs have been successfully transferred with the complete commit history. We can now profit from the best platform out there and use Git, the fastest revision control system. This is something that we have been planning to do for some time. It took us a while to get the green lights from the PMC and work on some technicalities. We hope you’ll find GitHubfaster and easier to use than Launchpad. GitHub has more than a million users and will make the project more visible and ease external contributions.

What is Sahana?

For those who have not heard about Sahana, please take a look at our Wiki and also you might find history of Sahana interesting as well. In a nutshell, Sahana was a product of collaborative development effort of the ICT community in Sri Lanka to help the country recover from the deadliest Tsunami disaster in 2004 that was caused by an Indian Ocean earthquake. In early 2009, Sahana spin-off to its own organization thus, Sahana Software Foundation was formed as a non-profit organization registered in the State of California. The Sahana Software Foundation is dedicated to the mission of saving lives by providing information management solutions that enable organizations and communities to better prepare for and respond to disasters.

Why we moved to GitHub?

We want to give our developers an excellent user experience. GitHub is super fast and very popular so most developers won’t need to create a new login to contribute. Since most developers are familiar with git, it will be easy for new developers who are looking to contribute to Sahana Vesuvius to get started. Also we wanted to bring all our projects together under one roof. Sahana Eden, which is another umbrella project of Sahana Software Foundation, was moved to GitHub in early 2012. With this migration, it will be easier for us to manage the development of both of these projects.

Developer Notes

We used lp2gh script library to perform the migration so the history is entirely kept. We also moved all our bugs using lp2gh script. We are still working on the details. If you see something wrong or missing on GitHub, please contact us or create an issue on GitHub. If you had some branches on Launchpad, you can find them on the GitHub repository. Let us know if you have questions. Contributors simply fork the repository and get started. More information about this transition, resources and instructions for developers to migrate to Git are available on the Developer Workflow page on the Github Wiki.

Migrating existing Branches from Launchpad

We have identified following Launchpad individual branches that are of interest to migrate.

Therefore, I have already moved them to GitHub as separate branches under my fork of sahana/vesuvius in here. If your individual branch is not listed here (don’t get mad at us!), please read this guideline to migrate that to GitHub. But please make sure that your commit history is entirely kept with valid email addresses attached. One of the big issues that we ran into was that some commits were not linked with valid email addresses.

  • This will list down all commits that are not associated with a valid email address.
$ git shortlog -es|sort -rn |grep -Ev "@.+\."

If your branch is listed above and you want to quickly get on with continuing your development work on GitHub, following is a brief guideline.

$ git clone<your_name>/vesuvius
  • Move into local repository directory
$ cd vesuvius
  • Import your branches to local repository. This will import <export_branch_name> as <branch_name> in your repository. Repeat this for each branch that you wish to import.
$ git fetch <export_branch_name>:<branch_name>
  • Push all your local branches to your GitHub fork.
$ git push -a origin
  • Now you can work on any of those branches by doing:
$ git checkout <branch_name>
  • And later pushing back to GitHub by:
$ git push origin <branch_name>
  • You can add official Sahana Vesuvius master branch as a remote tracking branch
$ git remote add --track master vesuvius git://
The above step isn’t absolutely necessary, but you will find it very useful if you plan on working on this project in the long run. By adding Sahana Vesuvius master branch as a remote tracking branch, you will be able to get new updates into your branch.
  • To get new updates:
$ git fetch vesuvius
  • To merge it into your own project:
$ git merge vesuvius/master


  • Many thanks to Chamindra de Silva and Usman Akeju for their help.
  • Huge shout out to Ramindu Deshapriya for making this task possible!

The Sahana Software Foundation has gained a solid reputation over the years for participating successfully in Google’s Open Source programs. Sahana has been able to provide an enriching experience for young students in Open Source through both the Google Summer of Code and Google Code-In.  2013 was no exception, with Sahana participating in both events and catering to a large number of students.

The Google Code-In is a program carried out annually by Google to encourage younger students from ages 13 – 17 to take part in the world of Open Source by undertaking tasks for reputed Open Source organizations. Tasks are generally quite simple and are a great entry point for young people to engage with stable and enthusiastic open source communities around the world, while contributing a great deal towards worthy causes at the same time.

The Sahana Software Foundation successfully mentored students for the 2013 Google Code-In from 18th November 2013 to the 5th January 2014, with a total of 36 students completing at least 1 task and 9 students completing at least 5 tasks.  There were a total of 138 tasks of Eden and 63 tasks of Vesuvius out of which, 103 tasks and 50 tasks were completed respectively. Vishrut Mehta acted as the Organization Administrator for Sahana Eden while Ramindu Deshapriya took on the role of Organization Administrator for Sahana Vesuvius.  We saw quite a few students who had amazing abilities and completed their tasks admirably. It was gratifying to see students eagerly working on tasks, learning a great deal about disaster management and open source software development along the way. It was especially great to see some students (including our winners) helping others to get started with resolving issues on their Sahana installations, preserving the true sense of community that we at Sahana endeavor to continue.


We finally have the winners with us for Google Code-In 2013-2014 to annouce: Akshay Kumar Kalose from United States and Anurag Sharma from India. Congratulations to both!

Akshay Kumar completed around 35 tasks contributing to both Eden and Vesuvius Project. He showed great skills in designing some good themes, reporting and fixing bugs and documentation.Anurag completed around 16 tasks contributing to Eden Project which involved code refactoring, new module called EdenStart and mainly on Automated tests.

The official announcement from Google is here:


The Sahana Software Foundation welcomes Arnav, Katherine, Somay and Akila who have started internships with the Sahana Software Foundation. Their internships will be run part-time through to the end of March.

Arnav Sharma is new to Sahana but has previously contributed to the Apertium open-source machine translation engine. He’s a student at IIIT Hyderabad. Graeme Foster will be mentoring him to continue working on the test framework – with an initial focus on the smoke tests.

Arnav Sharma

Arnav Sharma

Katherine Papadopoulos has been a developer with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF – Doctors without Borders) in New York for 3 years and is also engaged with the Developers for Good, Stand-by Task Force, Crisis Mappers, and RHoK (Random Hacks of Kindness) communities. I’m hoping that this internship will help promote more cross pollination amoung our communities. Fran Boon will be mentoring her on a variety of mapping tasks.

Katherine Papadopoulos

Katherine Papadopoulos

Somay Jain is also from  IIIT Hyderabad and has been an intern and a Google Summer of Code (GSoC) student with Sahana previously and is back again to help us implement the Sahana Sunflower Community Management Tool using Sahana Eden. I’ll (Michael Howden) be mentoring him through this.

Somay Jain

Somay Jain

Akila Ravihansa Perera has also been a GSoC student with Sahana developing a dynamic portable app for Vesuvius platform and will continue working on Vesuvius platform during the Sahana internship program with Ramindu Deshapriya as his mentor. He’s from Colombo, Sri Lanka and has  a Bachelor’s degree with honors in Computer Science from University of Colombo School of Computing.

Akila Ravihansa Perera

Akila Ravihansa Perera

We’re all looking forward to a fun, educational and productive internship!

Born2Build is a group of enthusiastic 11year olds competing in a First LEGO League Robotics competition. The 2013 topic is “Nature’s Fury” – “children ages 9 to 16 from over 70 countries will explore the awe-inspiring storms, quakes, waves and more that we call natural disasters. Teams will discover what can be done when intense natural events meet the places people live, work, and play.”


Description of their challenge (from Born2Build site):  One of the biggest challenges disaster relief teams face is finding and keeping track of people. When a natural disaster strikes, the rescue workers face many challenges. The landscape of the location can change. Access to the area may be limited. Also, the rescue workers may have a hard time figuring out where to go and deploy resources.The first hour after a disaster strikes is called the “golden hour”. The chances of surviving is highest during this hour. The three tools that we use are Sahana, Lidar and FINDER, a NASA heartbeat sensor. Sahana is a database made in Sri Lanka. A few years ago google interns made an improved version Sahana. Finder is an system that can find peoples heart rate , it can sense the slightest movement. Finder can find heartbeats up to 30 feet away and 20 feet under rubble. Lidar is a scanner that identifies the area before the natural disaster and then scans it after to see how the landscape has changed. We thought about helping all the relief workers in communicating with each other. In our solution we have combined NASA’s heartbeat sensor, Sahana Software and Lidar to make a system where when a person is found, an biometric scan is taken and the persons identity is fed into the system. This solution increases the chance of finding victims during the “Golden Hour”. Once the information is gathered our solution creates a quick way to notify the database of an person’s status after a natural disaster. We consulted with many sources. We met an architect named Vijay, who talked to us about how buildings are made to deal with natural disasters. We also went to a “Be Prepared” event in downtown Portland which informed us on disaster preparation. We visited an fire station and they showed us all their gear and vehicles and emergency communication devices.

The Geoinformatics Center (GIC), attached to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) based in Thailand, invited the Sahana Software Foundation to conduct a 2 day SahanaCamp. The Sahana component of the awareness and capacity building workshop was part of a 3 week long course the Asian participants underwent at the AIT.  The SahanaCamp took place on December 16 and 17, 2014, at the GIC premises in AIT.

ait_jaxaThe Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Sentinel Asia initiative is collaborating with AIT with assisting Asian countries with disaster management efforts. One aspect is providing satellite imagery for hazard mapping for pre-disaster activities. Another is, following a disaster, JAXA provides a set of maps of the damage to AIT, who intern supply them to the affected country’s respective Government agency.


The workshop attendees at AIT were receiving disaster preparedness training on the use of GIS for National Hazard Mapping. On day one, the SahanaCamp complemented those activities by introducing them to the Community Resilience Mapping and Vulnerability Mapping tools with hands-on exercises that helped them realize how additional GIS layers such as census data and assets (e.g. buildings) data can be overstayed with the hazard maps to determine the communities level of risk.


The second day of the SahanaCamp exposed them to Sahana-based alerting/warning (i.e. Sahana CAP-enabled Alerting and Messaging Broker) and situational-reporting (i.e. Sahana Incident Reporting System) tools. The objective was to introduce need for hazard maps to define alerting boundaries that are different from political or national administrative boundaries. For example, if we are aware of the flood planes then when issuing a flood warning to that area one would ensure the warning is targeted to populations in and closely around that vulnerable area; opposed to issuing a province-wide or district-wide alert.

The exposure to the Sahana software tools and related exercises were followed by with the participants analysing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the various Sahana tools and the value of Sahana community of practice.There was a confusion among participants that Sahana Software Foundation would provide free services which it does during a crisis. They realized that they would need to build local capacity such as some software development capabilities. They do foresee opportunities and strengths that emerge from the Open Source Software and the diverse Community associated with the Software. The participants planned action to further explore the Sahana software and make efforts to introduce it to their organizations for further evaluation.

The participants are affiliated with to various government institutions in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. They are specifically associated with the JAXA Mini Projects for Sentinel Asia and SAFE.

communityThe Sahana ecosystem essentially comprise a community of practice; namely, the group of individuals sharing a common interest in investing their resources towards developing information systems for disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery phases. The power of the community of practice approach is one of the main reasons for the Philippines community was able to get Sahana community’s assistance to fulfil their humanitarian operations information sharing and publishing needs. Sahana members could be identified as “technology stewards.” (Terminology adopted from communities of practice theory.

SLIDES presented. – were predominantly focused how the community has developed an essential public good that has been used in several major catastrophes, across the globe, and continues to exist. Just alone in the Philippines there are three deployments of Sahana. There is potential for Sahana to do more in the Philippines with a local presence. Thereby, build capacity to improve local Sahana community to self sustain their deployments.

The workshop was hosted by Viettel and co-organized ITU ASP Centre of Excellence. The workshop took place in Hanoi, Vietnam, 28-29 November 2014. The audience were predominantly IT staff from various government agencies. The talks were mainly from foreign experts.


A belated November issue of Sahana News.  It was an incredibly eventful month, and the events in the Philippine especially consumed every spare moment.  Here’s the next installment of Sahana News for November 2013.

Recent News and Announcements

Welcome New Directors:  The Sahana Software Foundation Directors has invited three new directors to join the Board.  Please join me in welcoming their ideas, energy and commitment to Sahana and open source:

David Bitner – returns to the Sahana Software Foundation Board.  David is a GIS professional who recently received the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium’s Polaris Leadership Award for 2013. He sits on Sahana’s Financial Oversight Committee and regularly serves as admin for our Google Summer of Code program.

Devin Balkind – head of the Sarapis Foundation and NYC Prepared.  Devin is a fierce advocate of the use of free/libre and open source software for humanitarian organizations.  He has been working with the Sahana Software Foundation since Hurricane Sandy to assist humanitarian organizations with their technical needs, from websites to mailing lists to directories and systems like Sahana Eden.

Nuwan Waidyanatha – Chair of the Sahana Standards and Interoperability Committee.  Nuwan is leading the organization of the IOTX events in Sri Lanka next year and is spearheading a number of projects initiatives in the Asia Pacific Region – including a proposed Sahana Center of Excellence to be based in Bangkok and a planned SahanaCamp for the Philippines to be held early next year.

Super Typhoon Haiyan Response:  Much of the Sahana community has been involved with supporting efforts to aid the people of the Philippines who survived Super Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda last month. Two existing Sahana Eden stakeholders in the Philippines have both utilized Sahana Eden based solutions as part of their disaster response and recovery operations:  First, the Philippine Red Cross as a user of the Sahana Eden based Resource Management System; and second, the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development, who utilize the Sahana Eden based Relief Goods Inventory and Monitoring System (RGIMS).  In addition, a third effort to support the Philippine Department of Health arose from long-time Sahana Eden partners IOSN.  And we are currently responding to a request from the President’s office and via Crisis Mapper Celina Agaton to track aid requests and the status of donations.  For more information about our response activities, please see the following posts on our website:

In addition, the National Library of Medicine has set up an Haiyan event on their Sahana Vesuvius based People Locator system and is synchronizing missing and found persons data with Google Person Finder.

Please share this information with your networks and help us raise awareness and money for the great work that we do.  We have launched a fundraising campaign for Sahana on Razoo and have also posted this information our Facebook page and on Twitter.  Please share this information with your networks (like, retweet, etc.) and let them know how important it is to support us.

Google Code-In.  The Google Code-In started last month.  We are proud to be one of only 10 organizations chosen to mentor this program.  SSF Community members Ramindu Deshapriya (GSOC 2011 & 2012) and Vishrut Mehta (GSOC 2013) are our “admins”.  Mentors and task ideas continue to be welcome.  The program runs through early January.

Second Virtual Eden Training Held.  The second virtual Sahana Eden training for new developers was held on November 23rd.  We had over a dozen persons in attendance – most were participants in the Google Code-In – and again we’ve received great feedback and evaluations.  All training materials – including a recording of the session – are or will soon be available on our training page.

New Software Development Interns Announced.  As part of the Sahana Software Foundation’s internship program, we awarded internships to four software development interns with our Sahana Eden project: Aviral Desgupta (one of the 2012 Google Code-In Grand Prize Winners), Somay Jain (returning intern and 2013 GSOC student), Arnav Sharma and Katherine Papadopoulos.  They will be beginning this month.  We will also soon be announcing a fifth intern to work with our Sahana Vesuvius project to begin next month.  Profiles of the interns and their projects will be posted soon to our website.

Los Angeles County Community Resilience Mapping Tool Training held.  Training took place in late October for the eight “coalitions” that are going to be using Sahana Eden for community resiliency mapping.  You can read more about the community resilience initiative in “LA Builds Resilience through Wide-Ranging Relationships” from the November 2013 issue of Emergency Management Magazine.

Agreement with AidIQ:  This past month, we signed a long-term agreement with AidIQ to provide services to the Sahana Software Foundation at pre-negotiated rates.  This was the first agreement signed based on the responses we received to our open Request For Information issued in 2011.  The agreement will allow the Sahana Software Foundation to be more responsive to project and grant opportunities and will help us build capacity.

Upcoming Events

SahanaCamp@AIT Thailand December 16-17.  There will be a two day SahanaCamp run by SSF DIrector Nuwan Waidyanatha as part of a five-day Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) workshop hosted by the Center of Excellence in the Context of Climate Change in Bangkok, Thailand.  This SahanaCamp is not a technical training but is geared for humanitarian organizations to better understand how to manage information using tools like Sahana software.  For more information, see the event page on the Sahana Eden wiki.  Please contact Nuwan if you are interested in attending.

IOTX Lanka June 16-22, 2014 in Negombo and Colombo, Sri Lanka – SAVE THE DATE and plan to join us for a series of events commemorating the Indian Ocean Tsunami Xth Anniversary and focused on strengthening disaster planning and preparedness.  Planned public events include an Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) Workshop, ISCRAM Asia Conference, SahanaCamp Hackathon/Barcamp, a LirneASIA Public Lecture, and of course, the 2014 Sahana Annual General Meeting.

* * * * *

That’s all for this month.  If I’ve missed anything important, please do share your news with the community as well.  And as always, my inbox is always open.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Go forth and do good!!!

The Sahana Eden based Relief Goods Inventory and Monitoring System (RGIMS) is currently being used by the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for managing the delivery of humanitarian aid across the country.  RGIMS is a web based application that monitors the progress of relief goods in warehouses throughout the country from the time they are first requested by DSWD field offices to their handover to implementing partner and local government units.




The World Food Programme (WFP) sponsored this program, providing funding for training the IT department from the Philippine government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to customize Sahana Eden to be used to meet their emergency warehousing needs.  Sahana Software Foundation partner AidIQ provided that training last year and the system has been in heavy use since Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda struck the Philippines last month.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 12.32.17 PM

Fran Boon (seated right front) and Graeme Foster (standing rear left) provide training to Philippine Department of Social Welfare & Development on how to develop Sahana Eden solutions in 2012

Currently, the focus is on developing and deploying a portable version at warehouses without internet connectivity.  The pictures in this post were shared with us of RGIMS in action at the Tacloban main warehouse.



Donations are still needed to support our efforts to assist the people of the Philippines recover from Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.  Please consider a donation today.

Following Typhoon Haiyan, Dr Alvin Marcelo, a long term supporter of Sahana reached out to the Sahana Community to help International Open Source Network using Sahana for the National Telehealth Center. The Sahana Community was able to provide a customized Sahana site for managing requests and donations for organizations and sites.

Sahana Philippine Response Site

Sahana Philippine Response Site

When Dr Jeriel de Silos from the National Telehealth Center showed the Department of Health saw Sahana they realized how valuable it could be to collect, share and map information about the status of their clinics and other facilities affected by the typhoon and manage incoming requests especially with Sahana’s mapping function. Nurses in the Department of Health call center are now using Sahana to help plan their relief efforts.

Sahana MapSahana Requests

If you would like to support the Sahana Software Foundation’s continued response to Typhoon Haiyan you can donate here.