My doctoral dissertation reports on research about how to respond to disasters beyond assumed level in the Information Systems (IS) field. The Great East Japan Earthquake, which occurred on March 11, 2011, showed up the vulnerability of Information Communication Technology (ICT). After that devastating earthquake, Keio University conducted a field study to assess the damage inflicted upon the municipal government information system, with the added intention of developing a business continuity plan (BCP) applicable to extreme future contingencies. Results of the study led us to the realization that it is impossible to build a system that never fails. A separate case study, which we undertook based on the experience of Tagajo City, convinced us of the importance of an autonomous response when we faced with catastrophes beyond assumed level.
Based on the results of these preliminary studies, I carried out a literature review followed by model building to come up with a research design that would allow the construction of a “resilient” system with “frugal” design features but the capacity to produce a “creative response” when a disaster beyond assumed level is encountered. In this paper, resilient systems are those that recover their core functions flexibly and quickly.
Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, there has been a lot of talk in Japan about building a disaster proof society. I have been examining what a disaster proof society really means. The research question of this paper is, “How can we prepare for beyond assumed level disasters in the Information Systems (IS) field?”. This research will clarify IS operations and its design in an emergency.
Existing research pointed that submitted frameworks on disaster recovery provide only limited guidance on how to take IT preparedness steps to the operational level (Junglas et al. 2007). Expected outcome of this research is to crystalize the concept of “resilience” in the IS field and discuss its design philosophy in disaster recovery.
Research methodology is following, 1) preliminary study No1- a comparative study of the 13 municipalities affected by the earthquake, 2) preliminary study No2- a case study of Tagajo City, 3) literature review and building of conceptual models to be verified in future research, and 4) supplemental empirical surveys.
I have finished two preliminary studies and at the stage of model building from this studies and literature reviews. In this model building process, “Creative Response” notion was inducted from Tagajo responses and is defined as “autonomous response using whatever available resource to regain the capability to perform key objectives”. The accomplishment target of this model is a resilient IS. This creative response becomes a mean when we realize such a system. In addition, a “Frugal Information System (IS)” theory advocated by Dr. Richard Watson will be used deductively as a useful design concept to allow a creative response in the field.
IS research has focused on analyzing effectiveness of systems and its developed process. These discussions are based on an assumption that reliability of IS should be achieved by reliable technology (Butler et al. 2006). Therefore, it fails to account for IS operations in unexpected situations.
This research assumes that it is impossible to build a system that never fails. Thus, I propose the importance of preparedness for beyond assumed level disasters and response in the field after disaster happens. Expected outcome of this research is to crystalize the concept of resilient in the IS field.
Frugal IS which is defined as “an information system that is developed and deployed with minimal resources to meet the preeminent goal of the client” (Watson et al. 2013), would be the key concept of realizing a resilient IS. This is important under disaster situations that typically force people to deal with situations under limited access to resources.
I wrote academic paper with Dr.Watson (Georgia univ.) and Dr.Abraham (William & Mary college). Our paper won the best paper award in the academic conference of ITU-T and was published by IEEE Communications Magazine which has high impact factor in telecommunication field.
(Publication & Award)
・Sakurai, M., Watson, R.T., Abraham, C. and Kokuryo, J. 2014. "Sustaining Life During the Early Stages of Disaster Relief with a Frugal Information System: Learning from the Great East Japan Earthquake," IEEE Communications Magazine (52:1), pp.176-185.
・Best paper award (first prize) of ITU Kaleidoscope academic conference for “Sustaining Life During the Early Stages of Disaster Relief with a Frugal Information System: Learning from the Great East Japan Earthquake,” Mihoko Sakurai, Richard Watson, Chon Abraham, and Jiro Kokuryo, April 2013