Disaster Management & ICT

One topic that we haven’t covered in class, that really interests me, is the role that ICT plays in both predicting and preparing for disasters, but also during disasters, especially in developing countries where infrastructure is already so fragile. According to an article by the UN, satellite and Geographic Information Systems technology has been incredibly useful in mapping when and where it is likely that a natural disaster will take place. These satellite initiatives have mostly been taken upon by large international or intergovernmental organizations, and even some federal governments (one example being China) are getting involved with funding and perpetuating projects that will better help monitor disaster and environment issues.

Another example of the usefulness of investment in satellite technology is in Afghanistan, where using both satellite data and word of mouth was able to compile statistics about the amount of lost crops, and develop an early warning system for droughts. This also helped Afghanistan considerably in getting food aid as they waited out the drought, by providing tangible evidence to outside donors. The availability and accessibility of this type of satellite imagery also proved extremely useful during reconstruction after disasters, by providing tangible images of the most remote areas that aren’t accessible by roads, and giving relief workers and development officials a more complete image of what will be needed for reconstruction and rebuilding. While the usefulness of this type of technology for developing countries is immeasurable, it is also a technology that is not accessible to smaller nonprofits or individuals within the communities, and it is not clear how effectively the large organizations and federal governments disseminate this information to the public. Making this type of technology more accessible is an issue that may not be easily solved, because of the technical experience required to maintain certain systems, but this means in Afghanistan (for example), the farmers, while they benefitted because of the aid that came because of satellite research, were not privy to what government officials saw as causing and perpetuating the drought, as well as not being able to access the images that explained exactly what was going on. The article does acknowledge the usefulness of certain communication technologies during disasters though. Radios especially are highlighted as being key to the perpetuation of relief activities. Not only was it key for communication between aid workers, it also proved useful during the earthquake in Pradang, Indonesia, when the mayor got access to the last surviving cell phone tower and was able to broadcast messages to the public and maintain a sense of order amidst the crazy atmosphere that exists post-disaster.



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