Planetary Security at the Hague: Promoting Systems Level Design Approaches to Weather and Climate Information Services

On Wednesday 20th February, Resurgence CEO Mark Harvey presented at the annual Hague Planetary Security Conference the initial research findings of the Information Ecosystems Mapping of Nairobi. The mapping, which involved 400 household surveys alongside key informant interviews and focus group discussions, is a key activity of the UK Met Office and UK DFID supported DARAJA project under its Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) Programme. The skeleton information ecosystems map (see above) of Nairobi had been validated at a co-design workshop in Nairobi only a few days previously by a range of key stakeholder groups including residents and community leaders, local and national media, urban planners, national weather agencies and non-governmental organisations. The map details how weather and climate information flows from the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) through various channels including the Water, Sanitation and Energy (WSE) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) departments to the residents of informal settlements.

The mapping and research work was led on the ground by Resurgence partner, Konkuey Design Initiative (KDI). After the presentation, Harvey was joined by Vera Bukachi, KDI’s Director of Research, in leading a breakout group of experts drawn from NASA, Climate-KIC EIT, the Munich Re Foundation, European Climate Foundation and emergency Management Australia. All participants worked collaboratively on a scenario-based exercise that leverages the information ecosystems mapping work. The scenario details a day in the life of Kevin, a water vendor in Kibera, Nairobi, to design improved weather and climate information services (WCIS) for him, his community and his business clients.

The key discussion points within the group revolved around the critical importance of translating science into relevant, and at times, visceral, contextual experience in order to allow people to make sense of, and have enough situational experience in order to make decisions. Within this, storytelling is a powerful tool for communication – the development of user-relevant stories in context-appropriate language is key.

The expert group agreed that the development and adoption of any form of WCIS must be co-designed, and incorporate bi-directional and multi-directional feedback loops built into the the information ecosystem to improve the quality of information through integrating hyper-local contextual knowledge. Indigenous wisdom, in particular, must be more systematically integrated into the understanding of hazards in the provision of forecast information.

The successful session concluded acknowledging that certain actors in the information system are undervalued and under-resourced. ‘We need to upgrade the status of the National HydroMet Services, boost their clout in the institutional landscape and provide support them to develop new operating models and revenue strategies for the critical public information services they are mandated to provide’, emphasised Harvey at the close of the Hague discussion.