UNESCO conducts a training on Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response in Tanzania
Over the past several decades, climate change has led to major disasters in Eastern Africa countries including Tanzania. From floods, chronic droughts, landslides, strong winds and earthquakes to their secondary impacts of diseases and epidemics, these are some of the recent disasters plaguing Tanzania. These disasters lead to death and displacement of people, loss of properties and livelihoods, disruption of social networks and services such as water, food, and healthcare thereby leaving communities more vulnerable and susceptible to the next extreme event. Lack of disaster preparedness and awareness makes the situation worse as communities remain helpless in the event of disasters hence face its full impact. Combining citizen science and modern technological innovation provides an opportunity to build the resilience of communities and reduce risks.
To address this, the UNESCO Offices in Tanzania and Nairobi conducted a two-weeks training (16th to 31st August 2021) on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) using a Chatbot for disaster preparedness and response. The training is part of the Regional project on Strengthening Disasters Prevention approaches in Eastern Africa (STEPDEA) funded by the Ministry of foreign affairs of the Government of Japan and led by the UNESCO Office in Nairobi in collaboration with national governments, UNESCO National Commissions and Japanese institutions (LINE, Weather News Inc.) etc. Participants were introduced to the benefits of artificial intelligence and taken through the installation, use and management of the AI Chatbot for disaster response and management. The AI Chatbot is designed to enable the citizens and local authorities to access information before the onset of a disaster (warning), citizens to report disasters as they occur; and local authorities to respond immediately by identifying vulnerable areas and parties that are at risk, and informing the public where to find distribution points for assistance. A Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) framework was adapted during the 2-week training. CLA aims to improve results and facilitate country-led development by enhancing knowledge sharing and collaboration among partners while adapting to new and changing situations. The training brought together 150 people (50% of them women). The participants were drawn from national level public institutions, higher education institutions and non-state actors in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.