Tag Archives: text

#Sandy- ICTs Role in Hurricane Sandy

For the sector project this past week, our group presented on ICTs in Disasters and Humanitarian Aid. We described that ICTs can be used for disaster preparedness, disaster response and disaster recovery as a way to warn individuals, mobilize aid, coordinate stakeholders, and locate individuals- just to name a few. With Hurricane Sandy hitting the Northeastern United States this past week, ICTs played a key role in the preparedness and recovery processes. This blog outlines some of the key ICTs that were used during and after the storm to increase efficiency and minimize damage.

–          Twitter: Recommended by FEMA as one of the best ways to communicate and receive data. The Washington Post even ran a story on how to use twitter when you lose internet due to the high volume of users and capability for information dissemination. Also, Twitter s “promoted tweets” were donated to organizations such as the Red Cross so their vital information could be disseminated to twitter feeds across the country

–          Apps such as “Public Stuff” are donating their back-end resources to local governments to use for relief aid.

–          Tracking Apps- Apps such as the Red Cross were used to track the storm to enable individuals to be as prepared as possible for when the storm hit.

–          OpenStreetMaps: program utilized by New York City to allow residents to identify evacuation zones for certain areas to avoid confusion.

–          Maps/Tools: Google offered these services for disaster responders to coordinate need, location and resources.

–          Webcams: webcams were used to get live footage of areas to keep people updated on loved ones and to dissuade people from going outside and “checking”.

–          Open Content: News organizations such as the New York Times took down their paywalls during the storm and post-disaster which allows individuals to access these news sites for free and keep up to date without needing a subscription.

–          Text: Text services were opened up by FEMA to allow citizens to text a number to locate their nearest shelter.

Clearly, ICTs were heavily used in the past few days as the storm hit and in the immediate response. However, I think we will truly see these resources come into play as cities begin to rebuild and and the recovery process is managed and evaluated.


Frontline SMS

The famine in Somalia has been the topic of many of my International Development classes as of recent. Since disaster response is the topic of our ICT class this week, I think it is appropriate to comment on a few information and communication technologies that are being used to aid relief in the destitute, famine-stricken country. Frontline SMS is one such program that uses text messages to communicate with large numbers of people at one time. This is beneficial because it “enables instantaneous two-way communication on a large scale.” In order to use the program it needs to be downloaded on a computer (works on all Windows operating systems, Macs, and Linux) where the software uses the internet and a cell phone hook up with a sim card in order to send the text to a vast audience. By sending messages through an “online aggregator” there is the potential to reach more people at a faster rate, rather than the limited number of recipients allowed by regular cell phone systems.

Technologies are useful in a disaster such as this because the infrastructure is not wiped out as it would potentially be with hurricanes and earthquakes. With cell phones remaining intact they provide a valuable tool to communicate news of humanitarian aid and local events or insurgents.

To find out more about Frontline SMS, this video explains it well:

Or visit the website: