Gisli is one of the leading experts in the world on the use of technology in disaster response. He is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and advisor on the role technology can play in enhancing the response to large scale natural and man-made disasters. Gisli Olafsson joined NetHope, a consortium of 57 of the leading NGOs in the world in November 2010 as the Emergency Response Director, where he was responsible for coordinating information and communication technology (ICT) related emergency preparedness and emergency response activities of NetHope’s member organisations. They include organisations such as International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, Save the Children, WorldVision, Oxfam, Relief International, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, and the International Rescue Committee.
Prior to joining NetHope, Gisli had over 20 years of experience in the field of disaster management and is still an active member of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, a team of experienced disaster managers which are on stand-by to deploy anywhere in the world on a 6 hour notice to coordinate the first response of the international community to disasters on behalf of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He also has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, most recently working at Microsoft as a trusted advisor to international organizations and governments in disaster prone countries on the effective use of ICT to enhance response to natural disasters.
Gisli has participated in disaster field missions in connections with floods in Ghana (2007), Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (2008), Hurricane Ike in Texas (2008), Sichuan Earthquake (2008), Pandemic Outbreak (2009), West Sumatra Earthquake (2009), Haiti Earthquake (2010), Japan Earthquake/Tsunami (2011), Horn of Africa Famine (2011), Philippine’s Typhoons (2012 and 2013), West Africa Ebola Outbreak (2014-2015), European Refugee Crisis (2015), and Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria (2017). Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti 2010, Gisli led the first international rescue team that arrived in the country.
The combination of his extensive field experience in disaster management and technology background provides him with a deep understanding how technology can be applied to solve the most challenging collaboration issues faced in austere environments. This has led him to be appointed to various advisory boards and committees, such as the US State Department’s sub-committee on the use of technology in international disasters. Gisli was named a UNICEF Humanitarian Innovation Fellow and a Technology Partner Network Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013
In 2014, Gisli published the book The Crisis Leader, about the role of leadership in times of crisis, leveraging examples from his missions around the world to provide readers with an insight into the key aspects of leadership critical during chaotic times like disasters. The book has been translated into two languages and been sold worldwide.
Gisli holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Computer Science and Chemistry from Copenhagen University (Denmark 1993) and a Diploma in International Development from University of Iceland (2017). Gisli currently lives in Iceland, along with his wife and 5 children.