Smartphones in Post-Sandy Manhattan

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which affected my and well as many of my classmates families, I have become overwhelmed with reports of damage and destruction in my home town. Among the many articles I discovered in my search for aftermath information was this article from the Tech section of Huff Post, “After Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers Struggle With ‘Obselete’ Smartphones.”

According to the article, Lower Manhattan is completely without power and twenty five percent of cell towers were wiped out. As a result, New York City residents have found themselves without cell phone service. In a world where we depend on cell phones so much, this has become a major problem for New Yorkers. I have been having trouble contacting my family since the storm hit, and I can only imagine the millions of other people having the same problem.

Interestingly, the article discusses how people are now having to rely more on older forms of  technology that have been over-looked for so long. These technologies include basic flashlights, which have recently become replaced by flashlight applications on smartphones. In a disaster when people have little or no battery life on their phones, these applications cannot be used and they must resort to regular flashlights. Additionally, New Yorkers have been lining up to use payphones! Payphones, which just a week ago so many New Yorkers just walked past almost forgetting their existence, are now a hot commodity in the city. The article also states how recently, New York City proposed plans to convert pay phone locations into WiFi hotspots, so they would actually be useful spaces. While on a normal day in New York City I’m sure many would be in favor of this, in the post-hurricane state, I am sure many are thankful to have them.

This has given me a real life example of many of the things we have discussed in class. Firstly, it makes me think about the reliance on cellphones. We talk about the positive impact mobile phones have been able to have in many areas of the developing world, and how many societies have started using mobiles as their main form of communication technology (especially those that have leapfrogged over land lines). However, if something like this disaster were to happen, clearly mobile phones would not be useful. It also makes me realize just how difficult disaster response efforts can be. While we have learned about the difficulties of disaster management in class, it wasn’t until I had this event occur and affect me so personally that I really understood the gravity of the situation.

It is amazing to think that no matter how advanced our technology gets, set backs like Hurricane Sandy will still challenge our progress. Smartphones, rightfully earning their name, are capable of incredible things for communication and development. However, we walk a fine line between relying on our mobile phones for useful applications, and completely depending on them. If we become too dependent, we may find ourselves in difficult situations just like Lower Manhattan is experiencing now.

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2 responses to “Smartphones in Post-Sandy Manhattan

  • Paige Boetefuer

    This hurricane has shown us both the benefits and limitations of ICTs in disaster response. Cell phones and other modern technologies are limited due to a lack of electricity. However, phones and other technologies are also very helpful. People can share information by quickly taking a picture and sharing it online. Family members can get updates from the internet and news even if their family members in the area affected do not have access to phones. It is important to remember the limitations such as lack of electricity or internet, down cell phone towers, etc.

  • aspiros01

    Thanks for sharing this link! Like many, I forgot about payphones, but my family in Manhattan and Brooklyn sure did appreciate them as they trekked through the streets of flooded New York! We should use all of our resources in times like these, and it seems to be important to be open to using technologies besides the latest and most trendy.

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