Tag Archives: Port-au-Prince

Radio in Post-Disaster Haiti

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory. In the chaos and destruction after the earthquake hit, one radio station continued broadcasting and became a lifeline for Haitians. The station, called Signal FM, somehow withstood the earthquake and its tower was not damaged. Immediately after the earthquake, with electricity supplied by generators, the station started broadcasting important information about where to find help. One woman was even able to find her missing husband through a message she broadcasted on Signal FM. The station stayed on the air constantly for the two weeks after the earthquake. Originally they only had three days of fuel for their generators, but the Haitian government and several NGOs stepped up and provided funding to keep the station on the air. Signal FM organized a panel discussion on-air with journalists to keep people up to date on what was happening in the post-disaster chaos. According to this CNN report Signal FM reached about 3 million people in the Port-au-Prince area during the disaster and was also available to over the Internet. The fact that Signal FM combines traditional radio presence is combined with availability on the Internet is a great example of blending different types of ICTs in order to reach more people, as we saw in the case of the Farm Radio in Africa using SMS to tune people in to radio broadcasts.

Signal FM has been extremely important in disaster recovery in Haiti, especially considering the fact that Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has only a 62% literacy rate. In this context, the radio is an effective ICT because it can reach large quantities of people in their native language and give them access to critical survival information in a post-disaster setting. The importance and effectiveness of radio in post-earthquake Haiti can be seen in the fact that the U.S. Army handed out solar-powered and hand-cranked radios to around 80,000 Haitians living in  a displacement camp close to Port-au-Prince. In situations of extreme disaster, where other ICTs are not feasible due to the destruction of infrastructure, radio is often the most effective tool in getting critical information to the greatest number of people. According to Louis Richardson, a Haitian earthquake survivor quoted in the CNN report, Signal FM radio was “the most important source of information.”

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UNICEF’s Knight News Challenge – Voices of Youth Maps

These past couple of weeks we have been introduced to some interesting and (at least for me) new things. The open street map assignment made me aware of something I never knew existed until now. I think it’s a really interesting component of what role ICTs can have in impacting development, especially when taken into context with disaster response. Along these lines, I found this really cool project that is part of a challenge put on by the Knight Foundation, the “Knight News Challenge” with the subject “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?” Here is a brief video giving some context to the project:

UNICEF, as part of this challenge, is working on a project geared towards empowering youth in cities to map their neighborhoods in order to facilitate the communication between government and citizens, as well as improve response measures taken in disaster prone urban areas. The project focuses for now on the cities of Port-au-Prince and Rio de Janeiro.

Their project in one sentence: “Digital maps created by young advocates establish a collaborative space for municipal government and community to work together towards safer neighborhoods.” 

In February 2013 they trained ~300 youth mappers to cover 11 favelas in Rio and 2 neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. These ‘youth reports’ have already led to bridges getting fixed, flood walls being reinforced, and playgrounds cleared of stagnant water according to their description.

youth mappers in action - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

youth mappers in action – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Their approach uses a workshop which employs the UNICEF- Geographic Information System (UNICEF-GIS) which is a smartphone app. It allows the users to collect and “share location sensitive reports in a simple, private and secure manner.” The app creates a map of all reports filtered depending on the hazards, etc. Voices of Youth (the UNICEF moderated youth-friendly public platform) allows the mappers to turn their reports into “powerful advocacy materials, which they can promote collectively through other social and local media channels.”

Why Youth Mappers? “because young people bring a truthful first-hand and real perspective to the program, making our maps extremely compelling. If [the government] ignores maps by youth, then they are denying the needs of their most vulnerable and innocent citizens who are the voices of the future, as well as potential community leaders.”

Between March 1st and July 1st?

1) Prototyping an “Urgency Rank System”. The number of reports are increasingly growing, and in response we are devising a system to label and rank                          reports based on severity and urgency.

2) An administrative system that will allow users to create profiles and trainers to customize the layers on their maps.

3) A widget that will allow for a new interlinked Voices of Youth Maps to be embedded easily into any website for sharing youth posted multi-media reports.

4) Various upgrades to capacity and usability for UNICEF-GIS app and website.

5) A “Voices of Youth Maps and Civic Media How-To Guidebook” for streamlining trainings and project implementation as we scale to new cities.