Throughout the semester we have discussed the multipurpose of Information and Communication Technologies as it can be utilized in a variety of ways in efforts to promote development. This past week we have focused on Social Media and its effect in the developing world. While we have studied articles about social media in time of war as well as social media as a tool to deliver a message trans-nationally, we have also discussed social media in times of a natural disaster. It is well known that natural disasters are a huge component of international development as they have the ability to endanger a population and impede progress. According to a report released by the World Bank, “natural disasters can wipe out development gains and eclipse years of development investment. While they occur worldwide, their economic and social impacts have been increasing and are generally much greater in developing countries than in developed ones” (World Bank 2006). In recent years, while many ICTs have been used towards disaster relief in developing countries, we have also observed an increase of the tool in developed countries such as the United States.
In an article discussed in class, written by Sara Estes Cohen and published in Emergency Management, the reader apprehends a greater understanding of the use of Social Media in Disasters. In this article Sandy Marked a Shift for Social Media Use in Disasters, the author discusses how Hurricane Sandy displayed a shift in the use of social media. “More than ever before, government agencies turned to mobile and online technologies” (Cohen 2013). Prior to the hurricane as well as after government official utilized social media tools such as Twitter and Newsrooms to deliver the public with crucial information in order to maintain awareness of the community. The mayor of New York as well as the Emergency and Evacuation agencies continuously kept contact with the public. The staff members provided immediate responses to the questions asked via Twitter accounts as well as Facebook. The public of the city of New York had an option to subscribe to text messages released by the Mayor’s Office Twitter account that allowed people to still receive information once individuals lost power along with access to Internet. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA also held a twitter account dedicated to live updates on Hurricane Sandy. According to the article, “on Oct. 29th, the day Sandy made landfall, FEMA reached more than 300,000 people on Facebook and reached 6 million Twitter users with one message” (Cohen 2013). The American Red Cross also used social media tools to receive donations as well as promote relief. After the Hurricane it was evident that social media became the major source of information for the general public.
The author of this article also discusses the challenges present with the use of social media such as rumors that spread around. She explains that rumors become a dangerous aspect of social media and can harm the public. She thus concludes her article by claiming that while Hurricane Sandy did represent a significant evolution in the usage of social media it is important to introduce “standardized methods, new funding streams, and guidance. It is important to address the challenges so social media can be a tool for public safety in the future” (Cohen 2013). This article is a perfect example demonstrating that social media can be used world wide in combined efforts to help all societies not just developed or developing countries.