From chaos comes opportunity and we have a unique opportunity, a window in time, where we can with decisive action implement strategies embracing new technologies to fundamentally improve the lives of every man, woman, and child on the planet. As Abraham Lincoln said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”. The Technology for a Resilient World (TRW) platform aims to create a new future for resilience and preparedness practices and for the wellbeing of global communities.
Despite experiencing the SARS, H1N1, MERS, Ebola and Zika epidemics in the last 20 years, the world was not prepared for COVID-19. The crippling US$multi-trillion impact(1) of this global pandemic alone has made the case for immediate action – for reimagining the quest for global resilience. It’s time for change and action!
Pandemics are not the only concern. Natural disasters (including hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding and wildfires), conflicts and a steady increase in impoverished and forcibly displaced people have become the ‘new normal’, an indefinite crisis. The World Bank: “the impact of extreme natural disasters is estimated to be equivalent to a global US$520 billion loss in annual consumption and forces some 26 million people into poverty each year”(2).
There are key issues that need to be addressed. While important gains have been made to improve resilience, efforts have traditionally been primarily focused on response, not preparedness, and on recovery, not resilience. Resilience investment is seen as an ‘insurance’ burden rather than as a driver of long-term socio-economic growth and wellbeing.
Resilience thinking can be changed and accelerated. It must embrace the transformative power of innovative technologies and internet connectivity that can deliver exponential impact and tremendous returns on each dollar deployed. It must recognize that disaster and change are interdisciplinary events impacting multiple complex ecosystems. It must recognize the need for open source, globally applicable, strategies and educational resources. These tools and approaches are the foundations of a ‘new resilience’.
Technology for a Resilient World (TRW) is a direct response to these resilience challenges.
TRW’s mission is to reimagine resilience by using exponential technologies to accelerate and promote an increased focus on preparedness and to reposition resilience as an investment in long-term growth in order to create more resilient and better prepared societies.
TRW is a platform focused on innovative technologies that can, for example, predict, detect and track viral outbreaks, wildfires, dam breaches, snowmelt, sea levels and flooding. Whilst critical to preparedness, these technologies are also powerful contributors to socio-economic growth in their own right.
Preparedness is a compelling economic argument. The World Bank: “US$1 of preparedness saves US$16 on response”(3). Deploying exponential technologies can yield a far greater financial return than 1:16x. For example, Dr Tom Painter, CEO of Airborne Snow Observatories Inc, in discussing using LIDAR technology to measure snow mass and snowmelt, stated that “Each US$ invested in using this technology to achieve this all round resilience is estimated to yield US$40 of freshwater supply benefits alone and markedly greater than US$100 when considering hydroelectric optimization, groundwater storage, hazard avoidance and operational and political flexibility”. This ‘Exponential Preparedness Multiplier’ underpins a fresh approach to regarding investment in preparedness as an investment in long-term socio-economic growth.
Understanding how these technologies can be used is critical to realizing the benefits. For example, satellite data services can support early warning systems for natural disasters, the monitoring and improvement of crop yields and the monitoring of illegal and unreported fishing, ocean health, deforestation and coastal erosion. In addition, fully integrated real-time space data is critical for monitoring aging and failing infrastructure and can serve as an important bridge in the multi-decadal process of rebuilding. This multifunctional efficiency, whilst essential for best practice preparedness, also has many other socio-economic benefits.
To be effective, resilience must be viewed on an interdisciplinary, holistic basis; hazards have environmental, social and economic impact. For example, while scientists aren’t certain whether climate change has led to more hurricanes, they are confident that rising sea levels are leading to higher storm surges and more floods(4). In addition, because technology changes more rapidly than regulation, regulatory innovation is often required to enable technology to operate to its full capacity. Furthermore, to benefit fully from investing in technology assisted preparedness, it is essential to educate existing and future decision makers.
In summary, TRW’s strategy for a new resiliency is to deploy exponential technologies, harness their wider economic potential, create holistic global resilience strategies, new regulatory models and related training and educational resources. In doing so TRW can leverage and accelerate the Exponential Preparedness Multiplier to achieve higher impact and returns.