Phoning each other during personal or shared emergencies is one of the commonest human impulses. Until recently, technology and costs stood in the way. No longer.
We now have practically all grown-ups (and some young people too) in many Asian countries carrying around phones or having easy, regular access to them. For example, Sri Lanka’s tele-density now stands at 106.1 phones 100 people (2011 figures).
What does this mean in times of crisis caused by disasters or other calamities? This is explored in a short video I just made for LIRNEasia:
With the spread of affordable telecom services, most Asians now use their own phones to stay connected. Can talking on the phone help those responding to emergencies to be better organised? How can voice be used more efficiently in alerting and reporting about disasters? Where can computer technology make a difference in crisis management?
These questions were investigated in an action research project by LIRNEasia in partnership with Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s largest development organisation. Experimenting with Sahana disaster management software and Freedom Fone interactive voice response system, it probed how voice-based reporting can fit into globally accepted standards for sharing emergency data. It found that while the technology isn’t perfect yet, there is much potential.