In 2001, an earthquake struck the state of Gujarat, India. A case study by SEWA, the Self Employed Women’s Association, describes how ICT’s were used following the disaster, and what could have been done differently.
Communication is imperative after a disaster in order to coordinate the relief effort effectively. At this time, mobile phones were uncommon in Indian villages and mobile service did not return until 5 days after the earthquake. In response, the Disaster Mitigation Institute disseminated satellite phones and mobile phones to affected villages and established constant communication with areas in need of relief. The report asserts that “timely access to and proper use of Information Technology, enabled SEWA to mobilise the needed relief material and make relief effective.”
During the rehabilitation stage, the communication afforded by the ICTs allowed the affected communities to be involved in every step of their recovery and the process of rebuilding. The report states, “Twice a week, talk-back sessions of Satcom are held, where the villagers from the affected blocks participated at the village and block level in interactive dialogue with Panel of Engineers, Planners, Architects and Government officials based at Ahmedabad.” SEWA was able to collaborate and accept feedback from villages without sacrificing the speed and efficiency of recovery.
The report ends by acknowledging that access to communication technologies at the local level is vital to successful disaster recovery.