Enhancing Geospatial Preparedness for Disaster Management through the work of development organisations

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Depending on the complexity of a disaster and the local capacities, international organizations and multidisciplinary response teams might be involved in the response. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are used for coordination and information sharing. However, geospatial preparedness is necessary: reliable up to date geodata, tools, and people with the knowledge to use those tools. In least-developed countries the lack of geospatial preparedness, particularly geospatial pre-disaster information, hinders disaster response. In those places, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs creates a framework for cooperation with the Coordinated Data Scramble Initiative where Information Management Officers (IMOs) from different organisations are supported by volunteers and technical communities to provide ad-hoc datasets and infrastructure to use GIS. Nevertheless, long-term solutions are needed. Before the disaster, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) might already be using GIS to implement development projects. Based on the theoretical concept of disaster management and development as a learning circle, this investigation proposes the engagement of development NGOS working in disaster-prone areas to enhance geospatial preparedness. The research was based on a multi-method approach including the study of the body of literature, authoritative reports, and repositories and databases, monitorization of the tools used during responses to real emergencies, and semi-structured interviews to IMOs. Finally, the study concluded with an online survey with a worldwide sample of more than 200 development NGOs. The result show that disaster response requires reliable and up to date geodata which is not always the case. Humanitarian missions often rely on OpenStreetMap as a source of information to overcome this limitation. Therefore, improving OpenStreetMap would improve geospatial preparedness. Many development NGOs use digital geographic information, mostly open-data. They could indeed improve geospatial preparedness allowing community empowerment while conveying relevant pre-disaster datasets to the humanitarian missions. This bottom-up approach would allow for the inclusion of information relevant to the community in the disaster response decision-making process. There is, however, a limitation; most of these development NGOs are not familiar with the platform used by the humanitarian community (i.e., OpenStreetMap). Therefore, the sustainability of this synergic approach requires further harmonization between development and humanitarian organizations working for the wellbeing of the same communities
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS)
  • Painho, Marco, Supervisor
  • Jesus, Frederico Cruz, Supervisor
Award date3 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020


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