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Hosting a ‘Big Tent’ in Sendai, Japan on the role of technology when disaster strikes

When natural disasters strike, more and more people around the world are turning to the web, social media and mobile technologies to connect with loved ones, locate food and shelter, find evacuation routes, access medical care and help those affected, near and far.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen some powerful examples of technology helping people and organizations cope with disasters, including:

  • Families in Japan turning to person finder to locate loved ones feared lost;
  • Volunteers establishing SMS services and using crowdsourcing tools to collect information after the Haiti earthquake and engage the diaspora;
  • First responders using digital maps to coordinate efforts to provide medical care;
  • Students in New Zealand using social networks to form a volunteer army after the Christchurch earthquake; and
  • Online volunteer communities self-organizing to provide emergency crisis-mapping services around the world.
This is really only scratching the surface of the amazing things people are doing, and we’re only beginning to understand the potential. So we’re hosting a ‘Big Tent’ event in Sendai, Japan on 2 July to explore the growing role of technology in preparing for, responding to and rebuilding from disasters.

At this day-long forum, through a series of panel discussions, keynotes and technology demos, we hope to learn from some of the leading local and global, public and private sector voices on managing crises. The day's speakers will include:
We chose to host this event in Sendai - the largest city in Tohoku, the region devastated by last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake - to focus this forum on Japan’s impressive disaster response and recovery efforts, which demonstrated some new and innovative ways that technology can aid the efforts of responders to reduce the impact and cost of disasters.

While hard hit coastal areas remain bare, with only foundation lines to mark the many homes that have been lost, and too many families still living in shelters or temporary housing, central Sendai and much of the Tohoku region are beginning to buzz with new life and commerce as the community rebuilds. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we’ve already learned a great deal from this region and the inspiring response and rebuilding work being done by people in Japan and around the world, and we believe there’s much more for Google, public and private sector leaders, NGOs and technologists to gain by coming together here.

For those interested in joining us in Sendai, please register to attend here. Though space is limited, we’ll accommodate as many of you as we can.

(Cross-posted on the European Public Policy, Lat Long and Japan blogs)

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