Social Media and Disasters

After large disasters, public information is very important. People want to be fully informed on the extent of the disaster, and they want to know right away. These days the quickest way to gather the latest information, most of the time, is through social media. Social media allows everyday people to report the news as they see it to a large amount of people. They can do this through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, and much more. Average people are not the only ones using social media, and it has become a very important with emergency aid organizations.

The Congressional Research Service found that organizations use social media in emergencies and disasters in two main ways. First, to give out information and receive feedback. The second way is using social media as an emergency management tool. “Systematic usage  might include using the medium to conduct emergency communications and issue warnings; using social media to receive victim requests for assistance; monitoring user activities to establish situational awareness; and using uploaded images to create damage estimates, among others”.(Lindsay)

There is no question that social media has been very beneficial in releasing information to vast amounts of people. There is still worry of the effectiveness and reliability of social media for emergencies. There have been issues of people relying too heavily on social media, and asking for help through Facebook or Twitter, rather than calling 911. There have also been many false alarms through social media, which wastes time and money. Either way, social media usage is here to stay and it will be interesting to see how emergency and disaster management continue to utilize it.


Lindsay, Bruce. Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Print.

Muslim feminists online

While doing some general research on social media activism, I came across an article about social media platforms dedicated to the efforts of Muslim feminists. With images of Muslim women wearing burqas and the tragically inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai in my mind, I do not readily associate feminism with having a significant role in the Muslim religion. It turns out that there are numerous blogs written by Muslim women trying to reinterpret their religion with a feminist point of view. Sadia Ali wrote this blog post about her discovery of Muslim feminists online and how she went on to create pages on several social media platforms for these women to be able to collaboratively study the role of their gender within Islam. She reports that the conversations that ensued between women on these sites are harmonious, empathetic and genuinely curious. Some reject the idea that social roles should be based on gender while some do not. Most basically and most practically, ICTs contribute to development improving access to necessary information. However, I believe that  the ICT of social media can go beyond these basics. Allowing a marginalized population to virtually come together can redevelop cultural values and preconceived notions, with time potentially leading to a widespread lifestyle change. I know this sounds overly optimistic, bordering on naive (unless I’m already there), but a culture’s reconsideration of its treatment and perception of either gender must begin with an honest conversation, particularly revolving around the original source (whether it be a holy text, constitution, etc.). Although cyberactivism is not completely understood and is widely criticized for not making a significant impact, it does have the ability to open up such conversation, as exemplified by Ali’s Muslim Feminism Facebook page.

ICT and Disaster Preparedness: A Nepalese Case Study

In today’s ICT4D class we explored the use of technology during emergencies. While I was initially aware of ICTs for the purpose of humanitarian efforts following a disaster or country emergency, I was not completely versed in the potential that ICT has during before and during the actual emergency event. Following our discussion of ICT for disaster resilience, I decided to do some research on my focus country, Nepal. Situated in a highly volatile geographic region, Nepal is susceptible to massive earthquakes on a fairly regular basis. Therefore, the humanitarian efforts in the country have given a significant amount of thought to the integration of ICT for disaster preparedness. According to an article by the ICT Humanitarian Emergency Platform, Nepal is working on reducing the impact of natural disasters through the use of ICT. Specifically, the International Committee of the Red Cross has developed an Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) for maintaining communication during an earthquake.

The EPP includes a number of procedures to maintain information and communication throughout a disaster. To start with, they have technical physical equipment stored away for easy transportation and relocation. During a disaster, the plan initiates communication to the Headquarters in Geneva which then deploys a secondary emergency response. The plan also includes setting up communication with satellite phones and establishes connections to the office and corporate networks from remote locations. The goal of the plan is to keep officials in contact with each other because “communications is one of the most important tools during an emergency response operation.”

The plan, however, does not go into detail on what to do once communications are set up. Importantly, ICT during a disaster is necessary but not sufficient to reducing harm and damage to a country and its people. Similarly, even if officials have access to communication and information, it does not mean that anyone else does. I would like to find further emergency plans for Nepal that explore how ICT can be an advantage to the average person on the ground during a disaster. More so, I would like to see how ICT is integrated into the preparation, response, and recovery of more organizations in Nepal beyond The Red Cross. All questions aside, I was pleasantly surprised that humanitarian efforts in Nepal had integrated ICT into their action plan.

Social Gaming and Development


      Social Gaming is one very interesting aspect of social media. First off its a big business almost 68.7 million people in America played social games in 2012, and the business brought in 3.06 billion dollars that just in the United States alone! Secondly, social gaming is huge on the international scene, its difficult to find numbers but 55% of ALL Facebook users said that they play social games, and pointing to my on experience in many games like WoW and battlefield the number of international players is amazing. So what does this mean for development? Well three points, development games, community building, and why video games are so successful, are all important regarding development. First we have already seen how face book social games can be used for development purposes like the “Are you game?” woman’s health game. Social games can be yet another avenue for development messages and information. Another thing that video games do is build community, both domestically and internationally. International development could make use of this social space in all the ways it makes use of social spaces. In addition IDEV could use video games could reach populations that normally are anti-social or are difficult to reach. Finally video games and social games make learning fun! Every action and piece of information learned is associated wit a reward, if your ICT4D has anything to do with educating anyone, you might want to take a little extra time to learn what you can from social games. They combine increasing difficulty, instantaneous reward, active participation, and they are fun which certainly increases the amount of learning. In any case games can be helpful in a development perspective.


Pros and Cons: Conflict Early Warning Systems

On the subject of ICT4Peace, an article by two Payson graduates, Phuong N. Pham and Patrick Vinck was written in August of 2013, and explains how early warning systems can be used as they are for disasters, but for peace. I am going to synthesize the key points made in this article because “conflict” early warning systems should be in place, and it is relevant to Joseph Kony or even Ukraine, for example, to trigger early intervention when Russian troops are on the attack. The authors compare public health early warning systems and conflict early warning systems, and one of the main problems is that public heath warnings trickle down to involve local stakeholders, while conflict warnings are generally only given to policy makers at the top. How can we use ICTs to increase the effectiveness of conflict early warning systems?

Actors and response order:

  • People-centered and community-based approaches (changing roles): changes in who generates information, how it is generated, and who accesses it changes how we respond to conflict situations and breaks up hierarchies, potentially even human rights offenders
  • Emerging principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P): the duty to respond to early warning s of conflict by concerned governments and policy makers, including the UN

Key Challenges: Quality, ethics and response:

  • Responsibility to provide unbiased information: acccuracy and reliability of information in question, unequal access to ICTs
  • Ensure action is taken: requireeffort to respond to/address issues
  • Security of information: repressive regimes create new opportunities for human rights offenders when they monitor their citizens—this sensitive information must be kept secure and managed well…or else!
  • Ethical principles in research: protect human research subjects—is conflict early warning research? Can early warning systems create their own human rights violations?

Conclusion: Changes in early warning systems in response to ICTs will fundamentally change what is done and how. However, new ICTs also bring new concerns and ethical challenges. We must continue to monitor the effectiveness of programs and create practical guidelines for ICT4Peace practitioners.

Ryze – Social Media for Professionals

Social media is extremely important for professionals in any aspect of business.  The social networking website, is a free and paid website designed for business professionals.  The site is focused towards new entrepreneurs who are looking to promote their business.  The website is widespread in the business world of entrepreneurs, but is still looking to gain more widespread exposure.  The site claims to have over 500,000 members in 200 countries.  It also states that over 1,000 external organizations use the website to network.  The website was founded in San Francisco in 2001 at the beginning of the new generation of social networking services.  The website is similar to LinkedIn in the sense that new businesses can gain exposure and network with other professionals, but has not seen as much popularity as its counterpart.

Here’s a YouTube video that explains Ryze and how to create an account and use the website:

From the research I’ve done about Ryze, it seems like a great idea to get entrepreneurs connected and network new and innovative ideas.  This could be potentially helpful in the developing world, especially with NGOs and businesses that are focused on development, but the organization must place a larger emphasis on marketing it’s product to be utilized by a greater degree of professionals.

Spotlight on IMVU

In an effort to try to define social media in class we examined a social media landscape graphic. There were several sections, which showed us how diverse, and expansive social media can be past the frequented Facebook and Twitter. For example one of the least highlighted forms of social media is “virtual worlds”. There was a section for virtual worlds and one next to it for social games. I know next to nothing about either of these topics but one title did stick out to me. Recently I read Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. Ries is one of the cofounders of a virtual listed on the landscape. I was extra fascinated to learn about what his business, IMVU, actually does more and it’s purpose as a social media instrument because I knew of it from the angle of a startup business.

IMVU is a social media because it is a platform allowing members to make 3D avatars in order to “meet new people, chat, create, and play games with their friends in various languages in the United States and internationally.” The way it works is you just sign up or you can chose to sign in through Facebook, Twitter, or your Google account and then you create an avatar. You get to choose a name and you must enter your email address. It is strictly social and essentially a way to pass the time. Through my investigation I find no other purpose for it in the way that social media can be used as communication tactics to the greater public. This would only be a communication tactic within members about the avatars and their actions within the site. If this is a fascinating and puzzling to you as it is to me check out this info video!

The most similar thing to these virtual worlds is a site we read about called Games for Change. Games for Change helps create similar “entertainment” games but these stimulate social impact. This forum elicits more purpose (in my humble opinion) than IMVU be because of its efforts to harness this tool for “humanitarian and education efforts.”


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