JAPAN In the aftermath of January's devastating earthquake in Kobe, the Japanese have begun to scrutinise and review disaster management plans that they thought were more than adequate. The major lacuna in post-quake reconstruction, believe Japanese researchers, was the absence of geographical information systems (GIS). As Shigeru Kakumoto, a visiting associate professor at Kyoto University's Disaster Prevention Research Institute, points out, "We've been telling people that gis is essential in Japan, but we regret that we couldn't convince municipal governments in time." But when the Japanese move, they move fast: researchers negotiating with the Kobe authorities about when to install the systems are optimistic that the message will get home fast.

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