Off to Sri Lanka for Sahana 2009 Conference

Tomorrow night, I am leaving for a week in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to attend the first annual Sahana Software for Disaster Management ConferenceSahana is a Free and Open Source Disaster Management system. It is a web based collaboration tool that addresses the common coordination problems during a disaster from finding missing people, managing aid, managing volunteers, tracking camps effectively between Government groups, the civil society (NGOs) and the victims themselves.

I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about Sahana as I believe that effective management of information is an important part of Living Prepared™.  And Sahana, while intended for use more by organizations than individuals, is a powerful tool for effectively managing information about disasters.

Sahana has been used successfully in response to the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005, in response to the Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, for the Southern Leyte Mudslide Disaster in the Philippines in 2006, for the Yogjarkata Earthquake in Indonesia in 2006, for the Peru Ica Earthquake in 2007; for the Sichuan Earthquake in China in 2007, and implemented by the City of New York for managing their Coastal Storm Plan in 2007.  More information about Sahana can be found here.

I helped design the very first version of Sahana that was coded by the open source community in Sri Lanka in the weeks following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and am personally very proud of how far Sahana has come in the past five years.  I will be speaking about the history of humanitarian software and the challenges and benefits associated with it at the conference.  I will post a link to my presentation and paper when available.

Sahana has drawn interest from or been implemented by many professional emergency management response agencies around the world including FEMA, the City of New York, and the governments of Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia and China.  Several major international organizations and UN agencies  are looking at how Sahana can help coordinate information needs for relief agencies, and small charitable organizations around the world are already benefitting from using it.

Sahana can be implemented effectively at the local level for collecting lists of missing persons, to register recipients of aid at a shelter, to organize volunteers, to manage an inventory of disaster supplies, and to help track and match needs requests with available offers of assistance.  Anyone working with a community service organization could probably find utility in Sahana.

As an open source software project, it is most happy running on Linux, but also runs on Windows, Mac OSX, Solaris and as a portable applet (Windows XP) and as a Live-CD (Linux-based).  If you enjoy hacking around with applications and are interested in disaster and emergency management, you might enjoy getting involved with Sahana as a user.   You are welcome to join our mailing lists.  You can download the software from the Sourceforge CVS repository and find lots of instructions for installing and configuring Sahana on your computers, whatever they may be.

If you are a student in open source programming, you may be very interested to know that Sahana has been again selected to participate in the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) for 2009.  Sahana was selected as 1 of 150 out of about 400 groups who applied this year. This is a strong testament to the reputation that Sahana has built up of the last few years and the great success that we have had as part of this program previously.

If you are a student who is interested in participating in the GSoC this year, we would encourage you to review our ideas page and our student guidelines on the Sahana Wiki.

Once you have reviewed that information, we invite you to discuss any ideas that you may have on the Sahana maindev mailing list or via IRC (#sahana on Freenode or via  My handle on IRC is mprutsalis.

2 Responses

  1. Hi..
    I’m a graduate and would like to join with u all


  2. If you are interested in joining the Sahana project, you are in luck as it is open source and all newcomers are welcome. Go to and follow the links to the mailing lists; sign up for the developer’s (sahana-maindev) list as a first step.

    Best regards,

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