In aid of humanity
Blog :Logic is Variable
Date: 5/26/2012 6:02:00 AM
Disasters, natural as well as those brought by human beings, have always been there since the start of civilization. Only disasters have become more frequent and more devastating over time. Effective employment of communication technologies at all levels can help better manage the crisis and reduce their impact.
is a grim reminder of how tenuous human life and its comforts can be. Such disasters underscore the important role communication technologies can play in flow of information before, during and after any eventuality – even to the point of saving precious lives. When tragedies strike, information can become as important as food, potable water and or shelter. And the effectiveness of relief efforts relies heavily on the ability of the responders to effectively communicate, share information and manage the resources. Enabling communication at gross root level can literally save thousands of lives.
Thanks to development and fast spread of communications technologies that present an opportunity for government agencies and humanitarian organizations and to individuals to harness power of modern technologies to communicate more effectively with communities affected by disasters and to allow members of those communities to communicate with each other and with the outside world. A closer look at the use of communications technologies during disasters around the world in recent years shows how these can help in future.
Mobile phones and the Internet have played very important role in emergencies. Everyone can contribute to the relief fund through respective cell their phone carriers. This alone has brought out mobile phone industry as a big winner (thanks to exponential growth of mobile users’ base. Till August this year, the number of mobile phone subscriptions in Pakistan is nearing 100 million). Though the tele-density is not equal among different segments of population yet mobile phones have been used in flood emergency from early warnings to desperate calls to help and to feed the electronic and print media. Multifunctional mobile phones with cameras have made communication in different format (voice, text, and video) faster and easier.
Walk around online and you will come across people using the internet to spread real time information about the Pakistan flood disaster
. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Orkut and blogs have emerged as key tools for online users who want to help Pakistan and the effected people in dire need.
Many local journalists and volunteers who have been to flood hit areas and in relief camps have been seen using their mobile phone and connected laptops to update their twitter account adding filed tweets making the real time situation alive online. One of the many inspiring examples is of Natasha Jahangir Butt - a Pakistani student majoring in architecture in New York who has been creating waves with Flood of Hope at Twitter. Have a look at her account (http://twitter.com/natashajahangir) and one can see Natasha Jahangir persistently asking everyone to help. She also have been approaching celebrities (including Tom Cruise, Adam Levine, and Queen Rania of Jordan to name a few) to do shows or help in any other way they can in order to raise awareness about flood 2010 in Pakistan. Celebrities in turn have been asking their fans to do what they can and to donate generously to the relief efforts. This exponentially growing chain reaction has resulted in thousands of flood tweets flying across online world and a major segment of online population of the World Wide Web knowing about the flood situation in Pakistan.
While looking at different twitter accounts in my own flowers, I read tweets about everything from “Not much going on in Kherpur Nathan Shah, People waiting for help in camp near Sakhar are destitute, Victims are now preparing to go back to their destroyed villages in lower Punjab” to a tweet like “Birth of twins in a flood relief camp brings happiness to barren couple,” and “Seven couples getting married in relief camp.”
Similarly, Facebook – another popular social media website with huge users’ base and focus on sales and promotions have also done wonderful job in unfolding the real time flood situation to its users. Some active Facebook users have been arranging sales for the flood victims. One cupcake fundraiser asked people to buy cupcakes and the revenue would be distributed among flood effected people in Sindh. Sufia Siddique, a Facebook users from Lahore made Rs. 2,400/- and them involved her friends to form The People’s Disaster Management” (TPDM) group to support ongoing rehabilitation efforts and to raise money for flood relief.
These and many more examples show how different technologies like internet and mobile phones can be used for information flow in case of any emergency. These examples also highlight the potential benefits and challenges and offer general lessons about the effective use of information in emergencies, and about the management of risks. Accuracy of information and of the social context in which it is used is one of the best things.
In Pakistan, there is significant divide in communication infrastructure across different segments and communities. There is a lot of enthusiasm to make use of emerging communications technologies to share real time information as well as local knowledge and experiences among those who have integrated these technologies in their lives. On the other hand, those who are most vulnerable
to emergencies don’t have access to these wonders, may be due to affordability, illiteracy, low band-width or poor computing infrastructure. The digital divide poses a serious constraint. On a national level, this calls for conscious improvement of infrastructure and making emerging communication technologies available and affordable to everyone at gross roots level.