The power of Digital Earth: Developing affordable remote immersive collaboration spaces for data access and engagement in emergency management

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Caldera, H
Desha, C
Perez Mora, L
Hutchinson, D
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Melbourne, Australia


Thriving in the 21st Century requires innovative, multidisciplinary responses to the numerous complex challenges and opportunities identified within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). The engineering professional code of ethics behoves us to to engage in efforts to problem-solve in ways that literally ‘don’t cost the earth’ with regard to contributing further greenhouse gas emissions from travel for face-to-face interaction, and heavy data transfer and storage via energy-hungry data centres. Furthermore, it is important that our problem-solving techniques do not diminish the capacity for decision-making within this complexity and increasing frequency of climate-change related events, through crisis-related decision-making fatigue. Finally, it is critical that solutions are appropriate for the local context (in particular with regard to developing countries), rather than copy-pasting existing solutions, through regular interaction and empathetic design. The emergency management domain is a frequent and popular target for new innovations seeking to overcome these challenges. Yet many solutions fail to effectively combine cost-effectiveness with the “crisis versus business as usual” divide in terms of business systems and workforce readiness to operate in the changed context. With this in mind and driven by the desire to walk-the-talk in “lowimpact collaboration”, the authors describe a two-year journey to establish remote immersive collaboration spaces that create high-trust environments for collaboration with super-low bandwidth, where source-data stays local. The authors begin with an overview of the journey in data access and engagement, connecting these digital and geospatial breakthroughs with practical applications for responding to emergencies and moving beyond this to preparedness and prevention. The authors then highlight several Digital Earth initiatives underway globally that contribute to the UNSDGs agenda, and an initiative to improve virtual decision-making that engenders equity, equality and enhanced decision-making. The authors conclude with discussion regarding next steps and opportunities for engineers to engage with the research outcomes.

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World Engineers Convention (WEC) 2019

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Engineering practice and education

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Caldera, H; Desha, C; Perez-Mora, L; Hutchinson, D, The power of Digital Earth: Developing affordable remote immersive collaboration spaces for data access and engagement in emergency management, 2019