Mobile: When Mother Nature strikes … flood, drought, earthquake, and tsunami

by mcampbell on May 22, 2012

Mobile communication has become an essential tool for maintaining communication links following natural disasters. During the Pakistan floods of 2010, information could be obtained by SMS texting through the Humari Awaz (“our voice”) cell phone network. About 70% of the population has regular access, if not direct ownership, of a cellular phone making it a fairly well dispersed communications tool. SMS was re-employed when flooding occurred again 2011. During a crisis, even when traditional phone lines are available and operational, both the lines and local organizations experience overloading. Short text based messaging to centralized high capacity sites can be much more efficient and effective.

When severe drought hit Kenya in 2011, individual aid donations were obtained in excess of $ 1.7 million; 86% of which came through mobile phone banking. As this method of donation can be employed by people without a bank account, it is widely accessible in the developing world. Many of the donations were made by poorer people.

Google’s Person Finder is a web application that was created in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake in order to find missing persons. It has been employed to re-unite people displaced by various catastrophes such as the 2011 Japanese tsunami and the 2011 earthquake in New Zealand, and now has text message capacity allowing for simplified mobile communication.

 

 

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