In the past few weeks we have been discussing the usage of ICTs in times of emergency aid due to natural disasters. As a class we have been assigned squares to trace buildings and streets as an additional help to the Red Cross and the mapping services. Information Communication Technologies are a crucial aspect to helping disaster relief. With the help of radio satellites, disaster humanitarians can pick up signals and try and help avoid prominent damage by evacuating future affected populations in the areas that are being hit by a natural disaster. If the population has access to mobile phones, the Internet, TV and Radio they can communicate and help themselves in time of crisis by planning their escape routes. The transmission of SMSs have allowed for emergency messages with crucial information to be communicated to family members and emergency crews.
In an article written by Izumi Aizu a research fellow at Tama University the author describes the role of ICTs in a disaster as an example Japan’s earthquake.
In the article “The role of ICT during the disaster – A story of how Internet and other information and communication services could or could not help relief operations at the Great East Japan Earthquake”, Aizu discusses the role ICTs can play on disaster relief by showing that with information communication you can help prepare the affected area for what is coming. He claims that a majority of the population is connected via broadband and 3G network. However according to official data after the quake “telephone operators blocked 90% of calls in the most devastated areas” which is supposedly a standard measure to ensure that emergency services would go through (Aizu 2). However this affected thousands of citizens for they were refused the right to contact their friends and families.
In the coastal areas, the Tsunami destroyed a majority of the infrastructure including telephone lines. Although the Japanese government has over 1500 radio and satellite devices it did not meet the demand for communication and many could not be distributed to certain affected areas. While many people tried to send messages in hopes of receiving food and other aid via social networks such as Facebook or Email, the actual usage of ICTs were very low. Because there was such a low access to ICTs and the government and aid agencies weren’t focusing on improving the ICTs many areas remained very damage for several months. After a number of volunteer ICTs professionals inspected the areas they concluded that they needed to bring in more technologies such as computers and phones in order to help rebuild the area.
However after several months of helping citizens recover with the use of ICTS, iSPP , a pro- bono information support platform, conducted a survey by sending out an online questionnaire which received 2,815 responses and personal interviews with 185 interviewees. The main questions asked were which tools were useful, what information resources did people rely on and many others. The numbers that resulted from the questionnaire showed a severe reduction in ICT usage after the disaster.
In conclusion from the results, many of the people accentuated the importance of power supply in the emergency situation and that with ICTs disaster relief teams can bring the resources needed in time as well with help for preparedness. In response to this article I agree with the article that ICTs is an important aspect of disaster relief and that it is crucial to start now to help future disaster relief.