The Steinbeis Advanced Risk Technologies Group has developed a cloud platform that makes it possible to manage in a crisis and provides optimal support
Covid-19 has probably been the most global pandemic there has ever been – by a long way, and not just in geographical terms. Apart from the medical aspects, the economic impacts are and will be severe, especially in sections of the global population that are already suffering. The current situation is unique because it would appear to have triggered one of the first truly global threats. But was this threat really unexpected? Most members of the general public would probably say that it was – something experts would certainly deny. For more than two decades, organizations such as the World Economic Forum, the OECD, and the WHO have been warning about the threat posed by new pandemics, expressly highlighting how they can lead to sudden outbreaks and rapid person-to-person transmission – people would have no or only very little immunity, there would be no vaccines, and there would be insufficient or no supplies of antiviral drugs. Steinbeis Advanced Risk Technologies Group (R-Tech) has developed a cloud-based platform providing a portfolio of solutions for crisis situations.
The anticipated impacts of the current pandemic are disturbing. According to the United Nations, the number of people living in extreme poverty with an income of less than two euros a day is expected to rise to over 100 million. The number of people lacking basic shelter and clean water could hit half a billion this year, virtually wiping out a whole decade of progress. Besides, economic recovery is expected to very different for those economies that coped well with the crisis compared to those that did not.
Is there any way to prepare for an event like the current pandemic and mitigate its consequences? As early as 2006, the Global Risk Report published by the World Economic Forum warned that if we fail to contain a virus capable of causing a pandemic – and person-to-person transmission of the virus become commonplace – “the vulnerabilities of our interconnected global systems would intensify the human and economic impact.” It added that the global spread would be facilitated by global travel patterns and insufficient warning mechanisms: “Short-term economic impacts would include severe impairment of travel, tourism, and other service industries, as well as manufacturing and retail supply chains. […] Deep shifts in social, economic, and political relations are possible.”
Fast forward to the year 2020, and the Covid-19 pandemic is not only damaging global healthcare infrastructures, it is also undermining social, economic, and political relationships worldwide. It is not possible to predict when it will be over, but for the experts at the Steinbeis Advanced Risk Technologies Group, some of the most important lessons are already quite clear and they must be incorporated into future approaches to solve such problems:
- Global: Covid-19 will not be the last crisis of its kind. Further global upsets will follow, triggered by pandemics or other emerging risks such as extreme weather, global unrest, or cybercrime. All interest groups and society as a whole must be involved in searching for solutions and different ways to implement them.
- Resilience: Covid-19 appears to highlight the fact that societies must deal proactively with such risks and become “resilience-oriented.” According to the ISO definition, resilience is “the ability to absorb and adapt in a changing environment.
- Beyond “first response”: Coping with a crisis must be handled in such a way that all factors are assessed before, during, and after the catastrophic event. Current efforts often revolve around the “first response” (the immediate actions, reaction at the, e.g., catastrophic event). At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, most attention turned to providing beds in intensive care, six months later, people tended to talk more about the economy.
An intelligent cloud platform offering potential solutions based on indicators
In a series of EU projects, the Steinbeis Advanced Risk Technologies Group (R-Tech) joined forces with the European Risk & Resilience Institute (EU-VRi) to develop a portfolio of solutions that meets the three above-named requirements. Work is still ongoing to refine these solutions. “The portfolio is based on a smart cloud platform on the web that will allow governments, local authorities, first responders, and stakeholders involved in disaster management to find a common basis for exchanging information and making decisions together,” explains Steinbeis Entrepreneur Prof. Dr.-Ing. Aleksandar Jovanovic. Risks and resilience are dealt with along integrated lines within a framework spanning all stages of the crisis cycle:
- Stage I: Understand risks
This phase happens before the adverse event occurs. It involves identifying and monitoring emerging risks as early as possible and drawing attention to them.
- Stage II: Anticipate / prepare
This phase also happens before an undesirable event takes effect. It involves planning and developing proactive adaptation strategies.
- Stage III: Absorb / withstand
This phase starts during the initial stages of the adverse event and includes an assessment of vulnerabilities and potential domino/knock-on effects.
- Stage IV: Respond / recover
This phase concentrates on keeping the unwanted situation under control as quickly as possible. It also includes the recovery period and post-event recovery.
- Stage V: Adapt / transform
This phase includes infrastructure improvements and has an important influence on whether infrastructures are more resilient and sustainable after the event.
Risk assessment is based on more than 5,000 indicators stored in the system database. This system provides individual tools that allow different kinds of risk and resilience evaluations to be conducted, such as an assessment of resilience under certain scenarios, resilience monitoring beyond the period of operation, resilience comparisons (benchmarking) within different types of infrastructures, and similar assessments. Interactive graphs and diagrams help users to understand the evaluations, which are often highly complex, and run through a wide spectrum of what-if scenarios – looking backward or forward. The system also offers modules to support decision-making and perform stress-tests. Together, they help identify the best possible solutions to complex situations.
The portfolio of solutions offered by the Steinbeis Advanced Risk Technologies Group has been used to conduct a series of comprehensive disaster assessments, for example, one involving 122 hospitals in Austria. It is also being used for complex scenarios such as disaster events in smart cities, ports, water and energy supply, and other critical infrastructures.
Every new case leads to hitherto unknown challenges and with this, new solutions, although it is important to ensure that any technological innovations can actually be used in practice.