Former President Bill Clinton was in Miami Tuesday for a meeting on improving disaster response and resiliency in the Caribbean.
The event, organized by the Clinton Global Initiative and hosted by the University of Miami, aimed in part to introduce people working on hurricane recovery projects to potential funders. Those projects are helping Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica build back stronger after last year’s devastating hurricane season.
"The challenges we are facing include not only things that happened directly as the result of the hurricane, but also reflect the aggravation of problems that existed before them," he said.
Those pre-existing problems include aging power grids and communications systems, and a lack of affordable, sustainable energy sources, he said.
Clinton stressed the need for effective partnerships between corporations, NGOs and universities.
Other ideas discussed at the event included how to pre-position communications technology; using drones to deliver medication; and installing solar power sources for schools and mental health facilities.
Gregory Milne, chief metrics and impact officer at the Clinton Foundation, said beyond dollars, corporations have expertise NGOs can use -- for instance, how to get a product from a warehouse to a consumer.
"If they can partner with some of the amazing health organizations that are here, that are trying to get medications or vaccinations to those remote communities, that’s a win-win situation," he said.
Bob Lord, chief digital officer for IBM, said the company just held a 5,000-person hackathon in Puerto Rico on using technology for disaster preparedness and recovery. The "Call for Code" program focuses on developing projects like facial recognition software to identify disaster victims, or systems to track blood donations and pharmaceutical drugs.
"We have solved, with our technology, those same problems in a business context," Lord said. "What we're doing now is using our technology at scale."
Clinton said climate change is making resilience efforts more important.
"That has got to become part of the permanent mindset of people everywhere in the world, including in the United States, who are at risk of rising sea levels, increasing storms, more droughts, you name it," he said.
Later this week, Clinton travels to St. Lucia for the opening of a solar farm, and to the Virgin Islands to announce new hurricane recovery and sustainability initiatives with officials there.