HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Center for International Development
Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development


The world is witnessing an oft-repeated, tragic scene in Haiti: chaos in the aftermath of disaster. While technology increasingly helps predict natural disasters, it remains glaringly absent in the aftermath of calamity. But technology can be part of the solution to getting supplies and aid to victims following a disaster. It is now possible that as soon as a disaster hits – not the next day or in the next few hours, but literally minutes later – a Web-portal of the affected regions could go live. The portal would display geo-referenced village maps overlaid with demographic information, physical and infrastructure facilities, the latest satellite imagery, and message boards that allow for coordination and real-time information exchange between relief agents at all levels, and for affected individuals to provide real-time accountability. Within minutes of a disaster the world could know where it hit, how many people are affected, where they are, and how to get to them. Within hours, governments and relief agencies could know what is needed, who is helping, who is being helped and who is not.


Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, and and Tahir Andrabi. "Responding to Disasters - Can We Act in Time?" Boston Globe, January 20, 2010.