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 +The recent message by Paola on the humanitarian-ict list has made me 
 +realize that there now are probably many on this list who don't know how 
 +this all started. So let me take a bit of time to write a short narrative ​
 +of the story of Sahana .. told from my memory and perspective. My 
 +apologies if I missed any key people (I probably did :(..) and for any 
 +other mistakes in my narrative. I'm on a long flight so I don't have net 
 +access to check my old blogs to validate the dates. If anyone is 
 +interested you can read the blogs I wrote during the tsunami to see the 
 +gory details of the really early days; Google will help you find those.
 +Sunday, December 26th, 2004. Tsunami hits Indonesia, Sri Lanka and many 
 +other Asian countries. In the first week of the tunami, 1m people (or 5% 
 +of our population) was homeless. 2/3rds of Sri Lanka'​s coast was affected ​
 +in some way. Later on we find that nearly 40,000 of our people have died.
 +Tuesday, December 28th, 2004.  Many different organizations in Sri Lanka 
 +start efforts to write various bits of software to help manage the 
 +disaster. (This bit of the story was repeated in other countries- India, ​
 +Indonesia, Thailand etc..)
 +Wednesday, December 29th, 2004. Many of these folks get together at the 
 +ICT Agency in Narahenpita,​ Sri Lanka to discuss ways of putting the 
 +software all together to make it easier to manage the situation. That nite 
 +I called the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'​s CIOs office ​
 +(after finding the phone number in a powerpoint presentation he had done 
 +proposing developing a disaster management software system) and asked for 
 +whatever software they had. I was told that FEMA had no software that 
 +could help .. they only had software that was used to cut checks to people ​
 +after hurricanes.
 +In the 3-4 weeks that followed, many many individuals,​ universities and 
 +software companies and Sri Lanka Telecom contributed to what became known 
 +as Sahana. Amongst the IT companies, Virtusa was the leading contributor ​
 +with more than 75 of their engineering staff helping at some time or the 
 +other. While most contributors to the initial effort were from Sri Lanka, ​
 +I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the urgent support we got from folks at 
 +Tigris.org (which we didn't end up using) and later SourceForge. We 
 +desperately needed a code repository and other infra (like mailing lists) ​
 +and these folks willingly and urgently came out of their holiday slumber ​
 +and got everything that we needed. Special mention also needs to go IBM'​s ​
 +Crisis Response Team lead by Brent Woodworth, who were then regular ​
 +visitors to Sri Lanka. From day 1 that entire team supported, encouraged ​
 +and cheered on the Sahana effort. In fact a good part of the initial ​
 +development was done on 15 notebooks that IBM donated within a week or so 
 +of the tsunami.
 +This joint effort was organized and managed by the Lanka Software ​
 +Foundation. In the early days we had a 24x7 operation and the first bits 
 +of software went into production use in about a week. Over time more and 
 +more capabilities were added and used in various ways. After about 3 
 +months this initial phase was completed and the software and its 
 +deployment reached a certain level of equilibrium.
 +In the meantime, it became clear to us that there was a huge hole in the 
 +world of disaster management software. The state of the art that the UN 
 +team that came to Sri Lanka with was a system called SUMA- something ​
 +written on FoxPRO. (Anyone remember FoxPRO? Yes, that was the 
 +pre-relational desktop database system from Microsoft!) IBM had some stuff 
 +based on Lotus Notes but it wasn't easily deployable, scalable and, most 
 +importantly,​ didn't embrace the Web. The tsunami gave us a unique ​
 +opportunity to look at disaster management in the modern world: even 
 +though there was sooo much death and damage, the communication network was 
 +in tact. Cell phones worked. The IP networks worked. Land-lines worked. A 
 +modern disaster management system must work in a connected environment .. 
 +and if communication has indeed failed (as often happens in earthquake ​
 +type disasters) its now quite easy to airdrop a box that sets up a local 
 +communication network with a satellite uplink. Clearly, there was a huge 
 +need for modern software that could live in this world and help first 
 +responders and follow-up recovery folks be more effective at responding ​
 +and managing a disaster.
 +We were not going to let Sahana die; we decided we are going to make it 
 +into something the world can reuse readily. "​We"​ at the time was primarily ​
 +Jivaka Weeratunge, co-founder of LSF and its then volunteer COO, and myself.
 +Chamindra de Silva, who had been one of the original people from Virtusa ​
 +who started the people registry which became a key component of Sahana, ​
 +agreed to leave his job at Virtusa and take a 1-year position in LSF to 
 +take Sahana forward if we could get the funding for it. Chamindra became ​
 +part of the "​let'​s take sahana forward"​ team.
 +On February 11th 2005 I wrote the following in a cover letter on the 
 +proposal we submitted to Ms. Asa Heijne, First Secretary of the Swedish ​
 +Embassy in Colombo along with a proposal seeking Rs. 8.548m (approximately ​
 +$85k) in funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) ​
 +to re-do Sahana:
 +"​Further to our discussions in late January, enclosed please find a 
 +proposal to further develop the Sahana Relief Management system into a 
 +fully reusable, globalized relief management system. We believe the 
 +potential global impact of such software will be tremendous and view this 
 +as an opportunity to help the world at a time when the world is helping ​
 +Sri Lanka so willingly and widely."​
 +SIDA approved our proposal and Sahana phase II started with that funding ​
 +on August 1st 2005. I also want to acknowledge the contribution of 
 +Per-Einar Troften in getting this funding- Per-Einar is in SIDA in Sweden. ​
 +He and Asa have (with the grant of $100k to start the Apache Axis2 project ​
 +and the Sahana grant) singlehandedly (two-handedly?​) changed the role of 
 +Sri Lanka in the FOSS world. If not for their trust in what LSF was 
 +proposing to do Sahana wouldn'​t exist in its current shape today.
 +I must also acknowledge LSF's co-founder and then COO Jivaka Weeratunge- ​
 +he's the one who helped manage LSF and make sure that we ran a superbly ​
 +tight and clear ship which made it easier for a funding agency to trust 
 +us. Oh yeah, Jivaka was a total volunteer doing all of that, as is the 
 +entire LSF Board. Jivaka was a key part of the strategy behind LSF overall ​
 +and then both and Sahana as we took them forward.
 +I think the following paragraphs we put in the proposal about why open 
 +source was a critical component of disaster management may be useful for 
 +folks to read:
 +"Very few countries and organizations today can afford to invest a lot of 
 +resources in disaster management when there is no disaster present. While 
 +this is obviously true of poor, developing nations, it is also true of 
 +richer, developed countries as well because there are always higher ​
 +priority items that need the funding. Worse yet, even if there are some 
 +national scale systems that may get deployed, it is very unlikely that 
 +regional and local level systems will ever get deployed if they cost any 
 +significant amount of resources.
 +Because no one is willing to pay for the software, no one is willing to 
 +build it either. This is what we see in the world today – while disaster ​
 +management software is critically needed, there is no complete commercial ​
 +or non-commercial software solution that is widely available.
 +Going the open source way can address both these concerns. Using the open 
 +source development model, it is possible to develop this software at a 
 +much reduced cost compared to pure commercial development models. This is 
 +true because while commercial entities are not willing to invest into 
 +these systems, there are hundreds and thousands of well-meaning IT 
 +professionals who are very happy to donate a few hours of effort to 
 +helping build such systems. We are already seeing this with the nascent ​
 +Sahana project. Thus if there was a small team which was driving such a 
 +project, then it is possible to get a lot of assistance from the global IT 
 +community to make those systems truly exceptional.
 +Going with open source approaches can also greatly reduce the deployment ​
 +cost of this software in peace (i.e., non-disaster) times. The Sahana ​
 +system, for example, can be deployed on any PC with just a Linux LiveCD ​
 +(that is, a CD from which the entire system can be booted up and brought ​
 +on-line). Thus, not only is it possible to run this on commodity, ​
 +inexpensive hardware, it is in fact possible to not even have dedicated ​
 +hardware around – just take any office PC and make that the “disaster ​
 +management center”! In fact, that is how Sahana was first deployed in Sri 
 +Lanka – on a borrowed PC. (Later it switched to running on a borrowed ​
 +server as the capacity requirements increased.)
 +Thus, open source is the natural way to providing disaster management ​
 +So that's how Sahana Phase II was born.
 +LSF has managed the Sahana project (and charges 20% overhead on the human 
 +resources part of the budget to do it .. a grand total of Rs. 1.008m or 
 +around $10k for phase II) with the LSF board being the final authority for 
 +how the Sahana team was deployed.
 +For those of you who know nothing about LSF- the board of LSF consists of 
 +local software company senior executives (usually CEOs), heads of CS 
 +departments of the 4 main public universities in Sri Lanka) and a few 
 +other distinguished individuals. The board is not compensated and everyone ​
 +participates to help improve Sri Lanka'​s position in FOSS- not for direct ​
 +commercial or personal benefit. We're of course a non-profit organization ​
 +legally registered in Sri Lanka. LSF's finances are annually audited by 
 +Ernst & Young in Sri Lanka.
 +What LSF does is find the funding for and run projects like Sahana.
 +After the funding for Sahana from SIDA finished at the end of July 2006, 
 +we've received a few additional grants .. with special thanks again to IBM 
 +for both cash and significant hardware donations. Google also donated some 
 +funds for LSF/Sahana.
 +Sahana has of course been a TREMENDOUS success. Kudos go to the core 
 +development team (Chamindra, Pradeeper, Ravindra, Mifan and the rest of 
 +the gang) for producing superb software, the committed bunch of folks on 
 +the Sahana mailing lists (with special mention to Paul, Louiqa, Don and 
 +Gav) and to the numerous others who have helped with developing Sahana, ​
 +deploying it or just talking about it. Special mention must go here to the 
 +efforts of the IBM Crisis Response Team in deploying Sahana in numerous ​
 +disaster and pre-disaster situations. On the recognition side, the recent ​
 +FSF Award is clearly the high point, being the second recipient of that 
 +after Wikipedia. The list of deployments of Sahana is absolutely ​
 +incredible .. and now includes both poor and rich (richest?) countries.
 +In this context the LSF Board started thinking last year about how to best 
 +take Sahana forward and about the role of the LSF Board. We concluded that 
 +the best thing to do was to hand over "​reigns"​ of the LSF part of Sahana ​
 +to a new team of people who would be focused purely on making Sahana climb 
 +as high as it can. In doing that, we CLEARLY separated the successful FOSS 
 +project that Sahana is from the LSF managed work in developing and 
 +deploying Sahana. In order to further the FOSS project of Sahana, we 
 +created the Sahana Project Management Committee, modeled closely on the 
 +Apache Software Foundation'​s model. The FOSS project and the PMC are 
 +purely community efforts- while we created the PMC, the future membership ​
 +of the PMC will be determined by the current PMC members. We bootstrapped ​
 +it and now its off on its own. Good luck!
 +The board has been appointed by LSF and will take overall charge of all 
 +LSF activities related to Sahana, including budgets. Sahana Board members ​
 +are all volunteers and we're extremely grateful for their willingness to 
 +help take Sahana forward. LSF is the underlying legal authority for the 
 +activities that the Sahana Board governs.
 +The specific roles and responsibilities of the community, PMC and the 
 +Board were documented in an email I posted to this list earlier. See: 
 +I hope this helps people understand how Sahana got started and how it has 
 +evolved. Most importantly,​ I hope it makes clear the governance structure ​
 +of Sahana and its intrinsically open nature.
 +I personally drove the creation of this model (in close consultation with 
 +a bunch of folks, esp. Chamindra, Louiqa, Paul, Don, Gav, Pradeeper and 
 +more) and I used my 10+ years of experience with Apache and other open 
 +source efforts to help create what I think is an absolutely open model. ​
 +That said, there'​s always room for improving the structure and activities- ​
 +make constructive suggestions and I'm sure the community, the PMC, the 
 +Sahana Board and the LSF Board will be willing listeners!
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