Bangladesh: Crowd-sourcing Flood Warning

Innovation Areas: CROWDSOURCING
Stage: Early stage

Improving the effectiveness of flood warning and disaster response systems using mobile messages

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The problem addressed

Bangladesh being the biggest active delta in the world, annual flooding especially in the low lying  areas (hoars) is a normal occurrence in the country between April to November. The greater hoar basin in the northeastern part of the country covering vast areas is a flash flood zone. However, the  existing flood forecasting system used by the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre of Bangladesh could not provide early warning to the flash flood affected communities that will enable them to respond to the flood warning in a timely manner. 

The intervention

The main objective of this project is to develop a localised warning system that addresses the specific needs of the flash flood prone communities that are living by the rivers. We developed and tested a prototype on a flash flood warning message wherein the communities living upstream would warn the communities living downstream of the imminent disaster through mobile. This would give the communities lead time of anywhere between 3 to 36 hours a minimum requisite for saving lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities.

The partners

We worked with Bangladesh Scouts who helped us develop the prototype with scouts who were from communities affected by the flash flood. Thereafter, we tested the prototype with communities in partnership with the Environment Department of North South University. The communities where the testing took place, also decided to carry the action forward beyond the testing. They organized themselves into groups and developed a communication tree with specific roles assigned to individual members for sending warning messages before the occurrence of a flash flood. 


Developed and tested a prototype on crowdsourcing for flash flood warning using mobile technology.

Involved approximately 100 youth in taking the innovation forward through partnership with Bangladesh Scouts and the North South University.

Prototype tested and scaled up in two villages in Northern Bangladesh namely Shudong in Durgapur and Dhuboara in mymensingh.

One documentary developed capturing the prototype testing and scaling up process.

4 community level events held for prototype development, testing and scaling up.

Working out loud undertaken with more than 100 country office staff through emails and interactions. External experts were involved using Disaster Risk Reduction solution exchange portal of UNDP Bangladesh for gathering more than 42 different ideas/inputs, comments and suggestions on feasibility of the design and how to improve it by addressing the challenges.

Lessons identified

End users are the best innovators and should always be part of the prototype designing, as they were the ones who provided the insight into the danger signs for flash flood using traditional knowledge, where the latest technology could not be used in a timely manner for flash flood early warning. ‘Working out loud’  is important to avoid duplication . We were able to partner with North South University who were themselves working on a flash flood warning concept  which we combined with our crowdsourcing to test the prototype. 

Contact person

Anu John email:

Related materials

Blog: Crowdsourcing flash-flood warnings that race the waters downstream


$6,000 USD

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