17 October 2013
Technology is saving lives during and after disasters – but the world’s poorest might be missing out on crucial help.
The World Disasters Report 2013 reveals how mobile phones, social media and other innovations are helping people cope and recover after emergencies such as cyclones and earthquakes.
But the research, produced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), also outlines the wide gap in access to technology across the world. Internet use in developing countries is six per cent compared to 76 per cent in high income countries.
The report adds that during the first critical hours after an emergency, most lives are saved by local people. Yet many of these lifesavers don’t have access to vital information and technology such as early warning systems and mobile phones.
The report urges businesses, humanitarian organisations, governments and communities to work together to overcome these inequalities.
Software can save lives
The IFRC has launched the Digital Divide Initiative to deal with the problem. Supported by Microsoft, the project is improving the information technology capacity of 80 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the world’s poorest and most disaster-prone countries, such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the IFRC, said: “We hope that governments and affected people in disaster-prone countries can take advantage of innovations like weather prediction software, satellite imagery and mass alert systems, increasing their resilience to disasters and their ability to recover quickly when they do happen.
“Typhoon Bopha affected 6.3 million people in the Philippines, and thousands of lives were saved because 99 per cent of the population have access to a mobile phone and could receive early warnings and information on staying safe.”
Event: technology and humanitarian action, 22 October
As the use of technology, in particular mobile telephones and the internet, becomes more widespread, approaches to humanitarian action are increasingly technology-orientated, with endless possibilities for innovation and improved effectiveness. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in partnership with the Humanitarian Policy Group, offer a balanced perspective between optimism and caution regarding the use of technology within humanitarian action at this event.
Find out more and register for the event or follow #WDR2013 on Twitter for live coverage on 22 October.