Yesterday morning, I had the honor of speaking to the 22nd World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM) in Toronto on the work of the Sahana Software Foundation. WCDM is one of the largest annual conferences in the world focused on disaster and emergency management. This year’s conference was attended by over 1,000 persons from government and first responder agencies, non-profit organizations, academia, and the private sector representing dozens of countries – most from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, but there were also attendees from Singapore, China and Iran.

The theme of this year’s conference was Global Threats, Local Consequences: Doing More with Less, which I thought was fitting, as the Sahana Software Foundation has been doing more with less for some time now!

It has been a long road for Sahana to become accepted and invited to participate with this community of disaster management professionals. I began working with conference chair Adrian Gordon last year to lay the groundwork for including Sahana in their program, and I am extremely grateful for his guidance in creating a talk that would most interest WCDM attendees.

After introducing Sahana and humanitarian open source software more generally, I presented lessons learned and best practices that came out of the Haiti Earthquake experience, which has resulted in a New Disaster Information Environment.

“New information technologies and providers emerged that will forever change how humanitarian information is collected, shared and managed…  Humanitarian organizations, governments and donors will all need to adapt this new information environment.”

US State Department White Paper, July 2010

My talk then focused on four case studies where governmental and humanitarian organizations have adopted Sahana software: the National Library of Medicine’s People Locator™ Project, the City of New York’s Sahana Emergency Management System, the City of Los Angeles’ Give2LA site, and the Resource Management System of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

I concluded by presenting our unique development model – what I call the Virtuous Circle of Contributions – that encourages users and organizations to donate features or fixes from their implementations back to the Sahana Software Foundation for incorporation into the main codebases (master branch or trunk) of our products through Contributor License Agreements or Software Grant Agreements. This ensures that future organization’s who adopt Sahana software will benefit from all of the hard work put in by our current partners, while making it possible for our current users to be able to benefit from new feature development done by these new partners as well.

Feedback from the talk has been highly positive and should lead to a number of new opportunities for Sahana – including some new partnerships with academic institutions who wish to contribute to our software’s development. Sahana software has clearly crossed over a threshold; Our name and brand are now recognized and well-known by the professional disaster and emergency management community. Several commented (including Adrian) that they did not know that Sahana software could do as much as it does. Learning objectives achieved!

I will presenting a similar talk to IAEM’s Annual Meeting in Orlando this coming October.