Stakeholder training on AI to boost Disaster Management in Rwanda

AI for DRR training in Rwanda © UNESCO

Over the last few decades, societies have become increasingly aware of the fact that disasters can be analyzed as the result of long-term processes; whereby the risk is created years or decades before the disaster manifests itself. For Rwanda, disasters are caused by natural and man-made processes that are directly linked to the geographical, historical and socio-cultural aspects of the country. The country’s disaster profile includes localized floods, landslides, droughts and earthquakes.

The need to prevent, identify, respond, manage and provide post disaster response is critical in reducing loss of life and destruction to property. Leveraging on emerging technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) provides an opportunity for fast response and recovery during a disaster. AI shows great potential in supporting data collection and monitoring, reconstruction and forecasting of extreme events, and effective and accessible communication before, during and after a disaster. It also shows the capacity of supporting scientific efforts aimed at understanding and mitigating risks caused by disasters.

UNESCO, with the financial support of the Government of Japan and in collaboration with Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO (RNCU) and other stakeholders organized a number of trainings on the use and application of Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Risk Reduction (AI4DRR) under the regional project named: ‘’ Strengthening Disaster Prevention Approaches in Eastern Africa - (STEDPEA)’’. The project aims to support the development and integration of artificial intelligence innovations into strategies and action plans for disaster risk reduction in the community, schools and public sector institutions within Eastern Africa.

Between August and September 2021, 2 physical (70 participants) and 1 virtual (70 participants) Al4DRR trainings were conducted. Participants were drawn from institutions and NGOs with the mandate of managing natural disasters and promoting use of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in finding innovative solutions to sustainably manage natural disasters in Rwanda.  

The objective of the training was to build the capacities of relevant national stakeholders to enable institutions and policy makers utilize artificial intelligence (AI Chatbot) and citizen science in disaster management. AI Chatbot is a Smart phone application that helps citizens interact with local authorities in order to prepare, respond and recover from disasters. The Chatbot enables users to receive early warning information on impending disasters and allows them to report the extent of disasters when they occur. It also enables governments to provide assistance to affected populations as well as communicate with the victims on possible areas to find support.