Gaël Musquet - Hackers Against Natural Disasters

Surviving Hurricane Hugo as a child eventually drove Gaël Musquet to create a citizen-led approach to disaster management.

Surviving Hurricane Hugo as a child eventually drove Gaël Musquet to create a citizen-led approach to disaster management. Gaël combines local citizens, authorities, and “hacktivists”—experts who use computers to solve problems for social good—to better coordinate communities before, during, and after a natural disaster.

Gaël's New Idea:

Meteorologist Gaël Musquet mobilizes people and leverages new technologies to help communities better anticipate and respond to crisis. Not content to rely on authorities for disaster preparedness, Gaël developed a strategy that taps into a new generation of people who want action and who are quick to apply technology to build flexible and decentralized “digital citizen security” teams.

Gaël’s organization, “Hackers Against Natural Disasters” (HAND), uses local communities of “makers,” “doers,” and “hackers” to autonomously develop and improve low-cost,
open-source crisis technologies—such as seismic sensors—and install them in identified high-risk zones. When there’s an alert, these sensors emit information directly onto social media networks, allowing communities to receive news in a few seconds and respond accordingly. The citizen teams also include key first responders—such as nurses, firemen, and local representatives—who lead specific missions, such as identifying shelter areas, supervising evacuations, and mobilizing drones to spot people who are isolated.

Gaël saw that the current top-down alert systems in France do not quickly and effectively inform the population when a catastrophe hits; authorities do not give citizens an active role in responding to crisis situations, thus increasing the number of victims. Gaël also realized that in most places, highly competent “hackers”—experts at programming and using computers to solve problems—can play an active and needed role in civil security. Once he has identified, mobilized, and trained this local digital citizen security corps, Gaël engages other citizens and local public authorities to interact with this system; whether they represent a school, a hospital, a company, or a family, they can act quickly and adequately before, during, and after the emergency.

Beginning in Guadeloupe, where he successfully demonstrated the positive effects of a digitally-prepared citizen security corps, Gaël now has HAND teams in the French territories of Martinique and Réunion, as well as in the south of France. Gaël envisions countries all over the world using the HAND framework, promoting collective action from citizens who co-design best practices with authorities to better mitigate damage from disasters.

Gaël's story appears in the 2018 edition of "Leading Social Entrepreneurs" which features a selection of just a few of the Ashoka Fellows recently brought into the largest global network of social entrepreneurs. The LSE presents some of the newest innovations by leading social entrepreneurs whose ideas are changing the way things are done all over the world.

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