Just sent this to Ask Slashdot. Don't know if they are going to pick it up, but you never know. I might work out the idea in a later post.
Like everybody I am following the news on the tsunami and I noticed a couple of things that got me thinking. After a disaster there are generally two major questions that need to be answered. 1. Who survived, got injured, died, is missing? 2. What relief is needed, where and who provides it? My question is, does anybody know of easy to use information systems that support the answer to these questions? It seems there are no good systems around/being used to support helping out with the first question. The second one I hope the UN has something, though I have an idea it could do with some helping out/updating.
At this moment I notice that the missing persons website in Thailand has a girl I know twice on record, once with a typo. It is very slow and doesn't seem linked to the hospitals because her husband who is injured in a hospital is listed on another website. Each countries Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to keep its own list of missing persons. This is not only a problem with big transnational disasters, but also was a problem with 9/11 or even airplane crashes and smaller scale national disasters.
I think an easy to set up off the shelve system might have great benefits to help solve the first question and help all the relevant authorities and put peace to the minds of parents and friends. If it is build in an open source kind of way with the possibility to run it on a variety of databases/systems and also be easy to adapt to all kinds of national languages. While typing I get all kinds of ideas on how I would want to design it, but that might be something for my Blog.