Sustainable Digital Transformation of Disaster Risk

– Integrating New Types of Digital Social Vulnerability and Interdependencies with Critical Infrastructure

Authors: Alexander Fekete (TH Köln—University of Applied Sciences), Jakob Rhyner (Bonn Alliance for Sustainabilty Research/ Innovation Campus Bonn (ICB), University of Bonn)

Published in: Sustainability 202012(22), 9324


“This article explores the relationship between digital transformation and disaster risk. Vulnerability studies aim at differentiating impacts and losses by using fine-grained information from demographic, social, and personal characteristics of humans. With ongoing digital development, these characteristics will transform and result in new traits, which need to be identified and integrated. Digital transformations will produce new social groups, partly human, semi-human, or non-human—some of which already exist, and some which can be foreseen by extrapolating from recent developments in the field of brain wearables, robotics, and software engineering. Though involved in the process of digital transformation, many researchers and practitioners in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction or Climate Change Adaptation are not yet aware of the repercussions for disaster and vulnerability assessments. Emerging vulnerabilities are due to a growing dependency on digital services and tools in the case of a severe emergency or crisis. This article depicts the different implications for future theoretical frameworks when identifying novel semi-human groups and their vulnerabilities to disaster risks. Findings include assumed changes within common indicators of social vulnerability, new indicators, a typology of humans, and human interrelations with digital extensions and two different perspectives on these groups and their dependencies with critical infrastructure.”*

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