Science and Technology News

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

STAR-TIDES, a Medium for Public-private Cooperation During Humanitarian Emergencies

Van Barker is an intern for the STAR-TIDES (Sharing to Accelerate Research-Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) research project at the National Defense University. Van is sophomore at Georgetown University in the School of Foreign Service.

Vinay Gupta probably did not expect to serve as an inspiration for a DoD research project. As a programmer, master of Nepalese magic, editorial staff-member at the Rocky Mountain Institute and, most recently, the founder of the Hexayurt Project – where he promotes easy-to-assemble shelters for disaster-stricken communities – Vinay’s background doesn’t smack of a strong connection with the U.S. defense community. Regardless, in his work with Hexayurt, he has approached disaster-relief with a “6 Ways to Die” model, which argues that humanitarian aid is most effective when targeted at the 6 top causes of human death: extreme heat, cold, thirst, hunger, illness, and injury. Little did he anticipate that it would help inspire the STAR-TIDES project (Sharing to Accelerate Research, Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) at the National Defense University, and guide our efforts to assemble a searchable database of low-cost, sustainable technologies for a variety of missions.

STAR-TIDES does not distribute disaster-relief supplies. Instead, we share information and research ways to support the needs of populations under stress: those in post-war, post-disaster, or impoverished conditions. STAR-TIDES is focused on contributing to the DoD missions of S&R (Stabilization and Reconstruction), HA/DR (Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief), BPC (Building Partnership Capacity) and DSCA (Defense Support of Civil Authorities.) We help NGOs, governments, and other interested parties identify the right strategies, tactics and tools for projects pertaining to these four priority areas. In this effort, we not only share the knowledge of an international network of 1500+ partners in the civil-military and technology communities, but also compile an open, collaborative database of low-cost, sustainable, and durable technologies on the website.

Any member of the STAR-TIDES network is free to post information about these technologies on the website in the areas of Water, Power, Shelter, Integrated Combustion & Solar Cooking, Cooling & Heating, Lighting, Sanitation, and Information & Communication Technology (ICT). The process is simple: click a tab on the home-page, choose the relevant forum, upload key information about the technology, and then post. STAR-TIDES staff reviews contributions for authenticity, but information can be made visible within less than a day. We cannot promote one company’s products over another’s. However, we can recommend which types of technology are appropriate for particular situations, and make it possible for members of our own extended network to learn about and review these technologies on their own. Outside of the technology database, members are also encouraged to use our site to get feedback on articles, seek contacts and advice, and collaborate with colleagues on specific efforts.

We aim for our project to be a go-to source for decision-makers and those working in the field, and STAR-TIDES is unprecedented in its collaboration with the private sector. By maintaining its own website and network, STAR-TIDES acts as an easily-accessible medium for public-private cooperation during humanitarian emergencies and other scenarios. At a time when the DoD and governments around the world are increasingly involved in issues complex civil-military interactions, there has never been a greater need for such relationships. Our network is always growing, and we invite anyone interested to join in and contribute.

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