The “Innovation and research for environmental risk management” conference was held in Pont-Saint-Martin on the initiative of the Project Management Institute – Northern Italy Chapter (PMI-NIC) and Engineering D.HUB, a company offering digital services and controlled by the Engineering Group, leader in digital transformation and at the forefront in the development of research and innovation projects.
The idea was the fruit of the meeting of the two promoters, which led to the immediate setting up of a high-level working group able to combine the experience of several projects that concretely demonstrate how the use of technologies can support the Public Administration, companies and other private players – as well as citizens – in environmental risk management.
According to data from Legambiente's ECOSYSTEM RISKIO 2017, hydrogeological risk makes Italy increasingly insecure due to climate changes that amplify the effects of landslides and floods. At least 7.5 million citizens live and work in areas at risk. In 70% of the municipalities surveyed there are homes in such areas, in 27% entire neighborhoods and in 15% schools and hospitals. Over the last 5 years, the country has recorded 102 extreme environmental events that have caused floods or landslides, leading to the need to call for a state of emergency on 56 occasions, with a very high total cost in terms of human lives and an outlay of 7.6 billion euros.
These figures clearly highlight the absolute need for research and innovation projects that can preempt these phenomena, limit them whenever possible but – above all – prevent them from causing further victims, as well as develop methods that allow these projects to be managed with maximum efficiency.
Backed by its ability to manage business continuity and risk, as well as its international vision, combined with deep knowledge of territorial issues resulting from decades of collaboration with the local Public Administration, Engineering D.HUB is acting as a promoter with this first meeting of a model of wide-ranging collaboration between the public and private sectors, non-profit organizations and citizens, which aims to generate widespread involvement in and culture of the value of technology at the service of the environment.
"It is necessary to reconstruct through technology a relationship of awareness and trust between man and the environment that the same technology has contributed to devaluing over time" argues Francesco Bonfiglio, CEO of Engineering D.HUB. "The digital revolution, which has gradually created an artificial view of the environment that surrounds us, now allows us to collect billions of data and cognitive engines through a network of sensors, and to develop real-time information that can improve our relationship with climatic and seismic events, and with nature and the environment in general. We need new, agile approaches and renewed collaboration between citizens, public bodies and technological partners able to translate the concept of digital transformation into a balanced combination of services, ethics, eco-sustainability, agile evolution and technology".
"Innovation and research for environmental risk management": Summary of presentations
André Chaussod, born in Valle d'Aosta and researcher on the Risk Evaluation Dashboard (RED) project coordinated by Engineering, illustrated the project's work focused on the management and collection of data on avalanche risk and rock collapse, as well as the development of planning and prevention tools for the PA. Thanks to funds allocated by the European Regional Development Fund for the creation and development of a research unit, the project envisages the creation of an integrated tool (dashboard) for the acquisition, management and processing of data related to issues such as rock falls and snow avalanches, in order to support territorial management bodies in assessment of such scenarios. In addition to Engineering (leader), the research unit's partners are the research institutes of the Politecnico di Torino and the Montagna Sicura Foundation, as well as the GeneGIS GI and GMH Elicopter Services companies. "One of the main objectives of the project is to make a considerable amount of data available in a single environment: this is the meaning of the dashboard," explained Chaussod, "so that 'expert' users can offer correct support to decision-making processes, providing a general – but at the same time exhaustive – framework for enabling PA officials and managers to rapidly identify the main critical issues related to the territory to be managed. RED," concluded Chaussod, "represents a new approach to the management of environmental risks that have particular repercussions on mountain areas which are intrinsically vulnerable and in which the presence of man is increasing. The common objective of the proposed approaches – which are different for the two themes of the project – is to increase the efficiency of data management processes related to risk management, attempting to overcome problems common to the various PAs".
Representing the TRIM-Translate into Meaning start-up, Elena Cristofori and Alessandro Demarchi presented their project which aims to develop support tools for environmental management decisions based on the use of open-source technologies, such as web applications for the study of complex environmental systems and mobile applications for the active participation of citizens in territorial monitoring. The strength of TRIM is the interdisciplinary and bottom-up approach for promoting the understanding of information related to environmental risk and its sharing among decision-makers, stakeholders and citizens.
“We believe," stressed Alessandro Demarchi, " in the value and importance of multidisciplinarity. This is why we offer ourselves as a reality able to facilitate the analysis of problems and the choice of appropriate technological solutions between different technical, political, scientific players and local users, each with their own well-defined role. So we certainly do not replace decision-makers but propose ourselves as an element of support”. Elena Cristofori, on the other hand, emphasized the environmental theme: “We believe that much of the focus in the environmental risk value chain is on the production of new scientific-technological tools and little on the actual usability and usefulness of these tools. Also missing is interaction between innovative technologies and the capacity for observation by citizens or users and technology, which is fundamental in the analysis of environmental-complex systems on a local scale”.
Marco Caressa, Engineering's ICT Manager, focused on the Agile Project Management method for the digital PA, underlining how the management of territorial problems must meet two fundamental needs: handling environmental emergencies with the maximum "reactivity" and managing, rather anticipating, risks with the maximum "proactivity" before they turn into emergencies. “Digital Transformation is profoundly changing production processes," stressed Marco Caressa during his presentation, "and also concerns the Public Administration, with the virtualization of assets and the digitization of processes to be put forward as eServices. Only 16% of Italian citizens come into contact with the PA through digital platforms, less than half the European average. For managing change without being subject to it, it is necessary to streamline IT acquisition processes – given that today tenders can last for years – and to approach digital projects in a different way, adopting Agile methods and techniques, which are more effective in knowledge projects with immaterial production. Being 'agile' means focusing on the result, reducing waste and bureaucracy. It means being able to do more by spending less, for example by realizing only services that really create value for citizens. And no longer doing so in a logic of detailed multi-year plans, which are often then disregarded, but by planning for broad general objectives to then plan in an "adaptive" way and build the result in a progressive, incremental and iterative logic. Perhaps starting from the name - no longer PA (Public Administration) but "PIA": Public Innovation and Administration”.
Alessandro Palmas of OpenStreetMap for Wikimedia Italia spoke about the collaboration between open source communities and open data. "In its almost 14 years of existence, the OpenStreetMap project has developed a wide range of geographic data collection methods, ranging from professional GIS applications to extremely simple tools on smartphones for non-expert users.
These methods are used daily by tens of thousands of volunteers: on March 18, 2018, the platform exceeded one million active contributors. The versatility of the platform and the simplicity of updating offer many OpenStreetMap application scenarios for the management of environmental and seismic risk: from earthquakes to floods to the fight against epidemics, with partners such as the United Nations, American Red Cross, World Bank and Doctors without Borders. OSM was also used in Italy to support relief operations during the earthquake that hit central Italy in 2016: this greatly increased interest in the platform from the country's Civil Protection Department and Fire Brigade.
OpenStreetMap is therefore the ideal platform for Online Volunteering for rapid mapping, even remotely, in emergency situations or even for the daily management of rescue or planning operations. Its universality also makes it suitable for activities connected to pathways of active citizenship and civic monitoring, but also for outdoor recreation”.
The presentation by Eloise Bovet, Elena Durando and Alessandro Pezzoli highlighted collaboration between the Montagna Sicura Foundation (FMS) and the Politecnico di Torino, which is leading to positive results insofar as it allows the latter's students to undertake professional study internships directly on the territory of Valle d'Aosta and at the FMS Research Center. Collaboration with the Politecnico di Torino is useful for the FMS in improving scientific research and innovation in the field of environmental risk analysis. The most recent studies carried out by the two bodies on snow cover monitoring from satellite images were illustrated. In particular, analysis of the January 1-10, 2018 event showed how climate change requires continuous improvement of measurement and monitoring technologies, and how in-situ measurements and remote measurements need to be integrated in order to bring about effective improvement of forecasting models and related "early warning" systems for avalanche risk management.
Finally, Chiara Ruffino, Project Manager of Engineering D.HUB, spoke about business continuity for the PA and businesses and disaster recovery, arguing: “The Italian digital agenda, in line with the European agenda, aims to foster innovation, economic growth and progress, enhancing its information and communication assets through a platform for the use of digital services by institutions, companies and territorial communities. The common goal is to offer new and better services to the citizen. IT risk management does not function ‘out of the box’. It is a process of business risk management that must be carried out on an ongoing basis. The best practice of business continuity is inspired by the ISO 22301 standard and expressed using the methods defined and promoted by the Project Management Institute: Program Management, Project Management, Project Risk Management and Agile Project Management”.
“Engineering D.HUB," continued Ruffino, "has developed its own framework, called the Engineering Continuity Framework, based on the ISO 22301 standard for the management of Operational Continuity that applies in different market sectors, both for PA organizations and for private organizations of industry, Telecommunications & Media and Energy & Utilities. The Engineering offer includes models of pre-defined solutions, even those that can be profiled, to be selected according to the mandate, tasks and structures of the requesting body”.