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ITU to Advance AI Capabilities to Deal with Natural Disasters

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. Photo: ITU

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. Photo: ITU

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – has launched a new Focus Group to deal with the increasing prevalence and severity of natural disasters with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

In close collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the ITU Focus Group on ‘AI for natural disaster management’ will support global efforts to improve the understanding and modeling of natural hazards and disasters.

It will distill emerging best practices to develop a roadmap for international action in AI for natural disaster management. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for 15-17 March 2021. Participation is open to all interested parties.

“With new data and new insight come new powers of prediction able to save countless numbers of lives,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “This new Focus Group is the latest ITU initiative to ensure that AI fulfills its extraordinary potential to accelerate the innovation required to address the greatest challenges facing humanity.”

Clashes with nature impacted 1.5 billion people from 2005 to 2015, with 700,000 lives lost, 1.4 million injured, and 23 million left homeless, according to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 developed by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

AI can advance data collection and handling, improve hazard modeling by extracting complex patterns from a growing volume of geospatial data, and support effective emergency communications.

The new Focus Group will analyze relevant use cases of AI to deliver technical reports and accompanying educational materials addressing these three key dimensions of natural disaster management.

Its study of emergency communications will consider both technical as well as sociological and demographical aspects of these communications to ensure that they speak to all people at risk.

The Focus Group’s work will pay particular attention to the needs of vulnerable and resource-constrained regions. It will make special effort to support the participation of the countries shown to be most acutely impacted by natural disasters, notably small island developing states (SIDS) and low-income countries.

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