Virtusa spearheads new technologies to aid relief efforts in Sri Lanka

Feb 25 (IL) Virtusa Corporation, a global software development and IT services firm, spearheaded the design and development of an open source system for Disaster Relief in the wake of Asia's devastating tsunami. The project was launched in partnership with the Lanka Software Foundation (LSF) and other IT companies.

The system aptly named 'Sahana' (meaning relief), was developed to help agencies, individuals, NGOs and others who are involved in disaster relief to target, coordinate and track relief efforts, resources and centralize the disaster relief management process to ensure utmost efficiency. 'Sahana' currently supports a database of information pertaining to organizations, a registry of missing, displaced and deceased people, a registry of refugee camps, a registry on burial sites, information on damages and a transport logistics management system.

The Wall Street Journal published a feature article on the 3rd of February [written by Elizabeth Weinstein] that commended the system. " In Colombo Sri Lanka, engineers working for Massachusetts information technology services firm Virtusa Corp., built a web based application called 'Sahana' that served several pressing needs , registering displaced people including those in camps and coordinating the logistics and supply needs of the scores of aid groups on the ground". The Journal went on to quote Virtusa's Colombo based head of engineering Shahani Weerawarana, "We thought wouldn't it be great if we could build software to coordinate and help manage the crisis," and that is precisely what Virtusa went on to do.

Open source has brought a fundamental paradigm shift in the way software is constructed and distributed. Open source development enables other programmers and organizations to download, revise and update existing software. The disaster relief system designed by Virtusa is currently available on the SourceForge website (, which is a prominent open source portal. It can be downloaded at and can be rapidly deployed by any other organization or country during a crisis.

The first release of the system took place a mere five days after the start of development. Currently, teams continue to work with commitment and dedication, volunteering their core competencies for this human and national cause. Virtusa is the largest contributor with a total of more than 60 Virtusans volunteering their spare time and effort whenever possible. To quote the Wall street Journal, "Today, Sri Lanka's Centre for National Operations , the office established by the country's President to manage the disaster response , uses 'Sahana' to coordinate relief. More than 200 aid groups are registered in the system which is linked to government computers as well as local police databases , and more than 15,000 displaced families are listed . Currently Virtusa is working on separate registries for deceased people and those buried in makeshift graves. The software is available through the Open Source Foundation to anyone who wants to download it, so Virtusa wont profit from the project".

To date, the Virtusa team has spent more than 2000 hours on the project, reflecting the dedication and commitment of Virtusans.

Contributors to the development of the system include (in alphabetical order), volunteers from Eurocenter, Finder2000, hSenid, IBM, Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), John Keells Computer Services, Kingslake, Lanka Linux User Group (LKLUG), Lanka Software Foundation (LSF), Sri Lanka Telecom, TCC, University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) and the University of Moratuwa.