Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Disaster Recovery through Art - Come be part of Social Innovation

Art Impact Nepal is coming to Singapore in August. (

This event was launched in Kathmandu in April, and has been to Providence, Boston, San Diego and Rosarito so far.

I've learn a lot engaging with artists and meeting the visitors to the event. this event was the idea of various artists from Nepal and I'm learning something new all the time. There were a lot of unintended consequences.

Art Impact Nepal is not an art show. It is not about art appreciation and not about art education. The artists are Nepal fine Artists who are award winning artists, and they are there to display their art and share their experience during the earthquake. They will also talk about the progress of the recovery and how they are leveraging on art for disaster recovery.

One of the artist -- Ajit Sah is already training survivors in the earthquake to make handicrafts and the handicrafts are already sold in Kathmandu to allow the survivors of the earthquake to earn more money for rebuilding of their homes.

One of the goals of Art Impact Nepal is to raise funds to build a residential art studio in Lumbini, training and allowing more survivors to make handicrafts and sell handicrafts for a living. Foreign artists can visit the residential studios to work with the artisans, learning local art, as well as sharing their crafts with each other.


After running this art exhibition for some time, I've already learn so many new things.

1) Art Therapy.

One of the artists in Nepal experienced a lot of loss, and almost quit art. But when he saw the artists coming together for this project, he started painting again with mixed media. He realized that his post disaster art is much darker than his original art. Now, he is using all dark colors, showing broken temples and bells.

He realized that he could express what he could not vocalize with art, and it was good for his mental health to release his feelings bottled inside him.

As such, art is also used to understand the mental health of the survivors, and used as a therapy, a channel for some of the troubled survivors to express themselves.

2) Caste System.

I learn a lot more about the caste system, and how different castes will not come and support because of the type of art on display (lower caste)

In Nepal, I ran the exhibition and managed to get the various people to come, however, in the US, evidently, the community was fragmented and it was hard to get support from the Nepal community.


If you are in Singapore, please come by and support and show your solidarity to the artists. If you can please come and buy some handicrafts as well. There are organic soap and other handicrafts made by the villagers using only sustainable locally found materials and vegetable dyes.

I'd like to introduce conscious consumerism and you can support Nepal recovery by shopping in the new Singapore way, instead of donations. We can enable the survivors to support themselves and rebuild their communities by buying the things we need or meaningful gifts.

-- Robin Low

Friday, July 8, 2016

Humanitarian Robotics: The $15 Billion Question?

The International Community spends around $25 Billion per year to provide life saving assistance to people devastated by wars and natural disasters. According to the United Nations, this is $15 Billion short of what is urgently needed; that’s $15 Billion short every year. So how do we double the impact of humanitarian efforts and do so at half the cost?

Perhaps one way to deal with this stunning 40% gap in funding is to scale the positive impact of the aid industry. How? By radically increasing the efficiency (time-savings) and productivity (cost-savings) of humanitarian efforts. This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Autonomous Robotics come in. The World Economic Forum refers to this powerful new combination as the 4th Industrial Revolution. Amazon, Facebook, Google and other Top 100 Fortune companies are powering this revolution with billions of dollars in R&D. So whether we like it or not, the robotics arms race will impact the humanitarian industry just like it is impacting other industries: through radical gains in efficiency & productivity.

Take Amazon, for example. The company uses some 30,000 Kiva robots in its warehouses across the globe (pictured below). These ground-based, terrestrial robotics solutions have already reduced Amazon’s operating expenses by no less than 20%. And each new warehouse that integrates these self-driving robots will save the company around $22 million in fulfillment expenses alone. According to Deutsche Bank, “Bringing the Kivas to the 100 or so distribution centers that still haven’t implemented the tech would save Amazon a further $2.5 billion.” As is well known, the company is also experimenting with aerial robotics (drones). Meanwhile, Walmart and others are finally starting to enter the robotics arms race. The latter is using ground-based robots to ship apparel and is actively exploring the use of aerial robotics to “photograph ware-house shelves as part of an effort to reduce the time it takes to catalogue inventory.”

What makes this new industrial revolution different from those that preceded it is the fundamental shift from manually controlled technologies—a world we’re all very familiar with—to a world powered by increasingly intelligent and autonomous systems—an entirely different kind of world. One might describe this as a shift towards extreme automation. And whether extreme automation powers aerial robotics, terrestrial robotics or maritime robots (pictured below) is besides the point. The disruption here is the one-way shift towards increasingly intelligent and autonomous systems.

Why does this fundamental shift matter to those of us working in humanitarian aid? For at least two reasons: the collection of humanitarian information and the transportation of humanitarian cargo. Whether we like it or not, the rise of increasingly autonomous systems will impact both the way we collect data and transport cargo by making these processes faster, safer and more cost-effective. Naturally, this won’t happen overnight: disruption is a process.

Humanitarian organizations cannot stop the 4th Industrial Revolution. But they can apply their humanitarian principles and ideals to inform how autonomous robotics are used in humanitarian contexts. Take the importance of localizing aid, for example, a priority that gained unanimous support at the recent World Humanitarian Summit. If we apply this priority to humanitarian robotics, the question becomes: how can access to appropriate robotics solutions be localized so that local partners can double the positive impact of their own humanitarian efforts? In other words, how do we democratize the 4th Industrial Revolution? Doing so may be an important step towards closing the $15 billion gap. It could render the humanitarian industry more efficient and productive while localizing aid and creating local jobs in new industries.