Tech for Good: Microsoft's Alliance for Disaster Management

Microsoft and its Citizenship team last week unveiled a new nonprofit alliance to enhance disaster relief management. The partnership with the Aidmatrix Foundation, a supply chain management humanitarian organization, is part of Microsoft's efforts to support disaster response organizations through the use of information and communications technology. As part of the partnership, Aidmatrix Foundation will use a variety of Windows Azure and Bing Maps-based technologies to provide dynamic maps, social media information, photos and video content. These technologies will facilitate communications between responders and with the public during disasters, allowing for the rapid exchange of information on conditions in the disaster areas, disbursement of resources where they are most needed, and connecting community members with the available relief resources.

Aidmatrix, founded on initial investments from Accenture, i2 Technologies, and UPS, has been an R&D partner of Microsoft and is integrating Microsoft’s Windows-based Azure technology into its SCM4Giving™ and other humanitarian aid platforms. This platform enables partners, including state/local governments and nonprofit organizations, to publish their list of needed relief items on their own website as well as directly to the Microsoft network of disaster communication websites, making the needs requests visible to a broad audience. Aidmatrix partners with more than 40,000 nonprofit, corporate, and government relief agencies worldwide who can benefit from this work during times of disaster.

The integration of the Azure Disaster Response tools and Aidmatrix’s SCM4Giving platform showed early success in response to the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. For this collaborative project, Microsoft’s Disaster Response Team was named Honorary Laureate in the 2011 Computerworld Honors Program.

More recently, the partnership facilitated ongoing humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Turkey, which is still recovering from last October's earthquakes, by enabling the San Francisco Fleet Week Association to make donations in response to on-the-ground needs in Turkey.

Historically, aid money and resources for disaster relief are spent after the fact and can be disjointed from scalable, proven practices. Microsoft tries to encourage the creation of permanent solutions. "We’d like to see more permanent, flexible solutions made broadly available so they can be picked up and used when needed," said Microsoft's James Rooney, who manages the Azure Disaster Relief tools. "That way, much needed resources can be spent directly helping people rather than developing technology solutions. As part of that, we believe in the power of cloud technology to provide scalable solutions accessible from anywhere in the world."