The monsoon is over, but its burden on Nepal and Nepalis is not. Since January 1, 2020, over 300 people have already died due to the landslides; many are missing, as per records of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Additional hundreds of families are struggling to build back their lives from the landslide havoc.
Like many fellow Nepalis, Pradip Khatiwada, a 29-year-old youth entrepreneur from Kathmandu, is worried about such disasters. But, there is something else that troubles him more; sometimes information about disaster losses might go unreported. He and his team are careful enough not to miss any disaster data in Nepal.
Khatiwada, the founder and executive director of YI-Lab, has technically assisted the Ministry of Home Affairs to launch an integrated disaster information management system (DIMS) locally known as Building Information Platform Against Disaster (BIPAD).
It is not only disaster data that Khatiwada is concerned about. The team led by this young entrepreneur has launched interventions in various other sectors of the national life with an aim of letting people access quality information quickly so that they can use them to improve and ease their lives.
Why data matters
The portal provides quality spatial data regarding all the natural and anthropogenic hazards such as landslides, earthquakes, fire, and floods with an aim of enhancing disaster resilience, preparedness, response, and communication in the country.
Nepal is prone to a multitude of disasters–either caused by nature or human activities. For an appropriate response to and preparedness for all sorts of disasters, the role of quality data is indispensable, according to him.
Realising the need for a comprehensive and integrated DIMS, the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) formed a steering committee comprising 11 ministries and departments. Then, Khatiwada was invited to join the consultation meeting and later given the responsibility to lead technical aspects of the BIPAD portal development. On Feb 11, 2019, his organisation signed an MoU with the NEOC to assist the development of the portal. The partnership continues since.
Khatiwada says his team was busy designing the portal for many months last year. “Now, we have signed the MoUs with 14 municipalities to localise the Bipad Portal.”
Meanwhile, his efforts have also received appreciation internationally. Dave Patley, the vice-president for innovation at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, has stated in his blog, “Very few countries have a publicly accessible database of disaster information of this quality. Nepal deserves great credit for setting up such a system.”
Promoting access to data
As in disaster management portal, Khatiwada’s company has been involved in promoting people’s access to information in other sectors also.
Started with a spirit to use cutting-edge technological tools to bridge the divide between technology and people and to develop solutions for inclusive development, the YI-Lab has launched a portal called Hamro Mahila Pratinidhi, arguably the first digital profile of all the elected female representations ranging from National Assembly to local-level governments.
Khatiwada briefs, “This project took almost two to three months to complete. We collated and verified all the required pieces of information of the female representatives such as their age, educational background, political experience, political party, commitments made during the election campaign, and their responsibility. After that, we displayed all of them in the form of info-graphics and are maintaining it to date.”
Khatiwada along with other co-founders started the company in 2016. Explaining the rationale behind the company, he says, “I feel multiple problems are prevalent in our society. I also realise that most people have been looking at some of those problems in the wrong ways. We want to correct them with data and evidence.” For that, access to reliable information is a must.”
Further, he shares, “People look at the representatives with a certain prejudice. For instance, most people think that female representatives have made to the position not on the basis of their capability, but because of the reservation system. Similarly, representatives are often criticised for being old and illiterate when people actually do not know their age, education or contribution.”
He views that people have never judged them on the basis of their agenda and real capabilities, apparently because there are no reliable data.
” Like this, we can come close to reality and can analyse them properly. That is why, we launched Hamro Mahila Pratinidhi in both digital and printed versions in the form of info-graphic making it easier for the audience to grab details easily,” informs Khatiwada.
Currently, his team is working to create a similar portal for all the elected representatives of the country.
“At the same time, we are designing a human right information management system for the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers.”
Combatting Covid-19 crisis with information
In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, the YI-Lab designed a web platform in collaboration with the government so that one can get detailed information relating to Covid-19 on one screen.
Continuing their effort to use an integrated technological approach for the very cause, this youth-led YI-lab and RIKA India have also co-designed a Covid-19 Monitor platform in partnership with U-Inspire Alliance. This is a Covid-19 regional monitoring system.
On this platform, factual data from different sources like government organisations, credible media houses, UN agencies, health institutions, and others are displayed. Likewise, this system also shows the travel history of Covid-19 patients so that others can avoid the major hotspot of the infection. And, for the data partnership, member countries from Nepal, Malaysia, India, and Indonesia are involved.
However, this platform could work properly in the initial days of the outbreak in Nepal only. “As of now, thousands of cases are added every single day, and maintaining that data went out of control by now.”