Kenya experiences both geological and weather related disasters but flooding, severe droughts and landslides have become common occurrences in recent years. The impact and severity of these disasters have been caused or multiplied by climate change. Loss of lives and livelihood, damage to properties, displacement and disruption of services and infrastructure among others are some of the impacts of climate change. Climate change has also resulted in increased frequencies of disasters indicating human casualties and economic losses are poised to increase in the coming years.
Poor response to disasters coupled with lack of disaster preparedness and/or awareness are some of the challenges facing the Eastern African countries. 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 internet of things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence provides an opportunity for fast response and recovery during a disaster.
In line with this, UNESCO Regional office for Eastern Africa implemented a project ‘Strengthening Disaster Prevention Approaches In Eastern Africa (STEPDEA)’ to support the development and integration of artificial intelligence innovations into strategies and action plans for disaster risk reduction. As part of its implementation, capacity-building workshops were organized in Nairobi between 1st and 10th September 2021.
The training focused on building capacities of DRR agencies in the country on the use of AI Chatbot, which was developed by UNESCO in collaboration with Japanese partners. AI Chatbot is a Smart phone application that helps citizens interact with local authorities in order to prepare, respond and recover from disasters. 150 participants attended the training drawn from government and non-governmental agencies at the national, county and community level. The training focused on the importance of the AI Chatbot in disaster risk reduction, demonstration of the setup of the AI Chatbot, its use in reporting disasters and accessing information for decision-making. It culminated in an interactive session between the trainers and the participants on responses about the training and reactions about the app.
The Chatbot is designed to effectively and efficiently disseminate information hence enables vulnerable communities to receive early warning information on impending disasters and allows them to report the extent of disasters when they occur. Information collected and processed by the Chatbot enables governments to formulate preventive measures in order to minimize loss and damage to the communities associated with disasters. It also enables them to provide assistance to affected populations as well as communicate with the victims on possible areas to find support.