ISU alumni spotlight: Shawna Pandya (MSS 2007)

Shawna Pandya is an ISU alumna from the MSS class of 2007. She is a Canadian, but since she is currently residing in the San Francisco area we have borrowed her from CAISU for our ISU*USA alumni spotlight. Hopefully we have not instigated a border war.

In the summer of 2009, Shawna attended the inaugural Singularity University Graduate Studies Program at NASA Ames Research Center. CiviGuard started as a team project at GSP (similar to the team projects at the ISU Summer Session Program). Following the summer at SU, Shawna, who serves as Chief Medical Officer, and another team member, Zubin Wadia, incorporated CiviGuard. In March 2010 they launched their first product at O'Reilly Media's Where 2.0 Conference in San Jose, California. More information about their launch can be found at en.oreilly.com/where2010/public/schedule/detail/10943.

CiviGuard's tagline is: "What if your smartphone could save your life?" The definition of their GSP project was to design a solution that would positively impact one billion people in ten years using accelerating and emerging technologies. Apparently this wasn't challenging enough, so Shawna and team looked for a way to impact 6.8 billion people.

"What is a problem space that is just as applicable to someone in the South Pacific as it is here in the United States? And for us that answer was obvious: natural and manmade disasters. Whether you're talking about an earthquake in Chile or Haiti or San Francisco or a global pandemic, disasters can affect anyone anywhere at anytime."

CiviGuard takes existing information that authorities have at incident command -- step-by-step instructions to the nearest evacuation routes, location of medical aid and shelter, access to disaster response libraries -- and delivers it to individuals via their smartphones. Crisis management platforms exist already, but Shawna notes that CiviGuard does two things better. First, it passes the information quicker. Most current systems take one to twelve hours to reach one million users, but CiviGuard plans to do it in two minutes. Second, CiviGuard would allow authorities to send critical information to a specific geographical area. Current systems send blanket announcements, which can have the unintended consequence of increasing panic or providing information from a irrelevant location.

CiviGuard is Shawna's first venture into the entrepreneurial world. "I've always been the one to start up a new initiative or a club or an organization or a charitable drive. Being in Silicon Valley, it's the perfect place for it. The nice thing about being in this part of the world is people are so passionate about their ideas. The mentality is if you're passionate about an idea, and even if you don't have the skill set to fully round out your vision, you find someone who is equally passionate and then start working together to implement it. It's all about passion for big ideas, technology, and then turning it into reality. It's really a cool part of the world to be living in."

Shawna thanks ISU for helping her get to where she is now. In addition to meeting some of her best friends, she also credits ISU's benefit to her career profile. "I had some extremely fantastic career opportunities in publications focused on telemedicine, telemedicine in the developing world, space technology spinoffs for medical benefit. I had some amazing conference opportunities, was invited to chair several sessions at different conferences, which typically you don't get to do at this point in your career. I think that's what ultimately made me a compelling candidate for SU."

What's next? Their first mission is to secure a user base in the 25 most populous cities in the United States. "Recent years have shown us there's so much that threatens these cities, whether it's terrorism, earthquakes, flooding, or hurricanes. We want to make sure that we are able to play a role in emergency response in these cities." They are looking at cities outside of the US where there are large populations of smartphone users. Additionally they are developing a medical line of products in order to help the developing world. "We're working on something that's going to be extremely portable, and help transform the way we do mass casualty incidents and patient triage tracking. That's really what first responders who have been in the developing world get excited about."

In the near term, you can see CiviGuard giving a keynote presentation at the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington, DC on 25 May 2010. Good luck to Shawna and the CiviGuard team.

You can contact Shawna via our web site at isu-usa.org/user/94.

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