AI Chatbot training for managing disasters in Uganda

AI training in Uganda © UNESCO

Climate change has led to a number of disastrous events over the last few decades. These include floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides in addition to secondary disasters such as disease epidemics. The effects of climate change are mostly felt among other regions of the world in Eastern African countries, which are highly sensitive and have low adaptive capacity. In Uganda, these disasters have led to loss of lives and displacement of almost 5 million people, loss of property and livelihood and disruption of basic services such as food, water, healthcare, social and cultural networks among others.

Poor response to disasters coupled with lack of disaster preparedness and/or awareness are some of the challenges facing the Eastern African countries. Introduction of modern technology in disaster management enables fast response and recovery therefore reducing the number of casualties.

In order to create awareness on disaster management, UNESCO organized a training workshop on the 3rd – 15th September 2021. The workshops were held in four different locations i.e. Mbarara in western Uganda, Mbale in eastern Uganda, Gulu in northern Uganda and Kampala representing central Uganda and Bunyoro Sub-region. Over two hundred participants attended the trainings drawn from government institutions and ministries, local universities, NGOs, civil societies, press and media houses.

The training is part of STEPDEA project implemented by UNESCO Regional office for Eastern Africa that aims to support the development and integration of science-evidenced measures such as artificial intelligence innovations, citizen science and gender-responsive actions into strategies and action plans for disaster risk reduction.

The training focused on capacity building the participants on the applications of artificial intelligence in the different phases of disaster management, the importance of the AI Chatbot in disaster risk reduction, demonstration of the set up of the AI Chatbot, its use in reporting disasters and accessing information for decision making.

The AI Chatbot developed by UNESCO in collaboration with Japanese partners is a Smart phone Application to help citizens interact with local authorities in order to prepare, respond and recover from disasters. It enables users to receive early warning on impending disasters and allows them to report the extent of disasters when they occur. The Chatbot provides an opportunity for governments to initiate timely preventive measures for disaster mitigation and preparedness before a disaster, monitor the extent of a disaster and provide assistance to the affected populations. It also allows governments to communicate with the victims on possible areas to find support.