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Disaster Response Applications: Virtual Assistants for Refugees in Czech Republic

In this –  the largest refugee crisis since World War II – innovation and applied technologies will once again have to be solution-based and rapidly deployed.  After all:  radar, cryptography, logistics, and nuclear physics all made definitive contributions to victory in World War II.

According to Reuters, as of early March:

  • As many as five million Ukrainians are expected to flee the country as the Russian bombing continues;
  • At least 1.7 million have fled Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion, with most crossing into the European Union in eastern Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and northern Romania;
  • More than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in the Czech Republic;
  • Of the people who have continued to the Czech Republic, around 57,000 have already received special visas, with more than half of those children;
  • Around a quarter of refugees have gone to the capital Prague, [where] authorities there needed to temporarily shut the city’s refugee assistance center…due to capacity strains.
  • Ukrainians comprise the Czech Republic’s biggest foreign community, with almost 197,000 residing legally at the end of 2021, according to the Czechoslovakian Interior Ministry. (1)

During a variety of recent domestic and international crises, we have provided research and analysis on the role technology-driven solutions played in the initial response and/or recovery efforts during these crises.  What is always compelling to us is the immediacy and human element of these case studies  – and the deployment of these technology platforms in a crisis situation – which reminds us that technology can and should be a force for good.  At times, we are grappling with so many unintended negative consequences (misinformation, etc.) of technology that this positive reality is easy to forget.

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Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.