Visualising disaster with Team Thailand

Poramate Minsiri, an internet pioneer in applying technology to disaster relief, is setting up interactive maps for monitoring natural disasters.

Calling the effort Team Thailand, the founder of the Kapook portal and also hopes the maps will eventually help keep tabs on crime in the country.

In collaboration with Google Crisis Response, the maps provide updated satellite imagery of flood-affected areas, showing infrastructure damage and helping users navigate disaster zones.

"Open data, sharing of the digital elevation model and integration of problem solving are key factors in managing natural disasters," said Mr Poramate, known as @iWhale on Twitter.

Team Thailand's website address is The maps will eventually provide critical information for the country beyond floods or natural disasters.

Mr Poramate says the website will show flood monitoring points and flood status at each location for a first step, but the site is also open to adding other information of interest for each area.

Team Thailand needs volunteers to help update information. The idea is one of visualising data, assisted by internet power, geographic systems and collaboration from communities.

Mr Poramate stresses social media's key role in times of crisis: "Twitter is a crowd-sourcing tool, opening opportunity for people to ask for assistance and share useful opinions and wisdom." He is urging the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to implement a disaster communication policy, including a central call number to report information about disasters.

Apart from SMS alerts to users in at-risk areas, Thailand needs a central SMS number as an alternative channel for aid requests.

In addition, mobile operators could set up priority number lists for hospitals and other key entities, and national roaming among mobile operators would establish network continuity.

Most important, the government must change the state's mindset to one of solving problems with greater input from all parties.