ICT4D Thought Leader Profile: Gisli Olaffson

With over twenty-five years of experience in the IT industry and almost twenty years in Disaster management, Gisli Olaffson is an expert in his field, combining ICTs with emergency response. He specializes in the use of technology to solve some of the most challenging collaboration issues within the field of disaster response; and is currently the Emergency Response Director of NetHope, a collaboration of thirty-four NGOs that work together under one umbrella to address the world’s most pressing issues through ICT innovation and development.

Gisli has had an extensive career in both the fields of computer science and disaster management leading up to where he is today. He has held computer tech positions at Xerox Corporation and Microsoft. In addition, Gisli is also an active member of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC), where he is on stand-by to immediately deploy anywhere in the world to coordinate first response operations for the international community when disaster strikes.

If you can think of a recent disaster, Gisli has most likely been there. More recently, he has participated in disaster field missions in response to the floods in Ghana and Pakistan, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, Hurricane Ike in Texas, the Horn of Africa Famine, and earthquakes in West Sumatra, Haiti, Japan, and China. He led the ICE-SAR team in the Haiti earthquake response.  His team was among the first to arrive on the scene – just two hours after the disaster. In addition to his disaster work, Gisli is the CEO and founder of Gridland.net, a consultant company focusing on .net and related technologies; as well as the CTO and co-founder of ITmobile.net, a small startup focusing on convergence of software and mobile technologies. Gisli boasts an impressive knowledge of languages, speaking English, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, and German.

Gisli attributes his inspiration to the local people who are there during the disaster, step up to start the rescue efforts, and continue to work even after the international response teams have left. He says, it’s often not the people with the “big titles,” but the low level workers that are the ones making things happen. He would like to see more of those people – the kind of leaders that step up and do the real work making a difference out in the field. You can find Gisli online on his blog, “Dealing with Disasters,” his Twitter, and his LinkedIn. Gisli currently resides in Geneva, Switzerland with his family.

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