A Geospatial Open collaboRative Architecture for Building Resilience against Disasters and Extreme Events (AGORA)
The acronym AGORA is inspired on the Greek ἀγορά (agora, literally ‘gathering place’), the spot in ancient Greek cities that was the centre of athletic, artistic, spiritual, and political life of the city (Wikipedia, 2013). The agora of Athens is thus considered the birthplace of democracy. Gibbons et al. (1994) used the term agora to refer to a new mode of making science (so-called ‘Mode 2’), which involves experts of different areas and also stakeholder groups from the ‘public’. In this sense, the agora is a primary domain of transdisciplinary knowledge production, i.e. it enables research that not cuts across disciplinary boundaries, but also bridges the chasm between science and society. As such, transdisciplinary research is strongly oriented towards, and driven by, problem-solving, making it very well-suited for the applied character of research on Information Systems.
Thus, the agora in ancient Greece lends itself here as an inspiring metaphor for AGORA – a transdisciplinary approach that is able to gather organisations and individuals by allowing them to bring their information supply and demands to a common platform using web 2.0 technologies (see figure above). As a result, AGORA achieves an integrated information basis that is assembled from the individual, heterogeneous pieces of information and can thus be dynamically analysed and interpreted by different experts/researchers and other stakeholders. AGORA will thus create a knowledge management platform where relevant issues and data are provided by the various stakeholders, bringing together the perspectives from science, the general population, and government (including local decision-makers, disaster management and emergency agencies), in order to collaborative tackle societal challenges such as the management of flood risks. Scientists/researchers can provide their analyses and interpretations based on the richer information basis of AGORA, based upon which more informed decisions could be made. In our context, the decisions are related to building resilience against flooding, particularly focusing on subsidising preparation and risk reduction efforts, such as real-time flood monitoring, local early warning systems, and risk analysis enabled by hazard and risk maps. Moreover, AGORA will not only provide decision-support interfaces for decision makers but also make the value-added data openly available in a standardised fashion. In this way, AGORA yields a flexible ecosystem that is able to cope with the ever-changing needs of participatory environmental monitoring and resilience building against disasters and extreme events.
The premise of AGORA is that flood hazard and risk maps can help building resilience against flooding by offering support to decision-making in planning and preparation for flood risks, as well as subsidising responsive efforts in the onset of flooding events. Four unleashing this potential, AGORA will develop methods for near real-time flood risk monitoring and analysis by generating dynamic risk maps that combine information from several sources. This will be accomplished not only by fusing data from existing information sources that are usually not integrated (official data, sensor network data streams, existing collaborative maps), but also by creating and integrating a new source of information with new methods for eliciting local knowledge from citizen volunteers. Hence, the hypothesis put forward here is that a collaborative approach that involves citizens, flood risk management experts/researchers, and governmental emergency agencies can improve the availability and quality of the information for flood risk monitoring and analysis, and thus support decision-making in managing flood risks.