Volunteered Geographic Information, Community Engagement and Bushfire Preparation in Tasmania: a preliminary study (16699)
As recent as this year Australian communities were severely impacted by devastating bushfires. The recent emergence of volunteered geographic information (VGI) is increasingly providing authorities an effective method for engaging with high risk, vulnerable and impacted communities. VGI involves the widespread engagement of the general public in generating and disseminating geographic information, predominantly through sources such as social media, photo and video sharing platforms, and online map-making software. Authorities and individuals have begun to embrace VGI technologies, creating a new landscape of geo-data production and knowledge sharing for crisis events. VGI enables rapid sharing of diverse geographic information for disaster management at a fraction of the resource costs associated with traditional data collection and dissemination and facilitates increased connectedness of individuals and authorities. However, VGI also raises important concerns relating to privacy, security, liability, data accuracy and credibility. While the utilisation of VGI in disaster response has been well documented in recent years, VGI for preparation and pre-disaster planning has received comparatively less attention. Research has shown communities often feel disempowered and may not engage in disaster preparedness activities. This research explores the potential role of VGI for fostering community engagement in bushfire preparation and building individual empowerment and disaster resilience in Tasmania. Through collaboration with the Tasmania Fire Service, an initial Tasmania-wide survey of communities at bushfire risk has provided insight into patterns of individual and community preparedness, social media and VGI use, and communication amongst community members and between communities and authorities. This study provides an evidence base for both the utilisation of VGI technologies in bushfire preparation initiatives and further research in this emerging field.