World Disasters Report 2013: Using Technology To Save Lives - Africa Launch

Press Release | International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) | October 17, 2013

Published: 17 October 2013

Nairobi, 17 October 2013: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will launch the World Disasters Report 2013, whose theme is Focus on Technology and the Future of Humanitarian Action, at an event to be held on Thursday 17 October 2013 at the iHUB, Bishop Magua Building, Ngong Road, Nairobi.

Lack of access to information and technology is having a major impact on people’s ability to prepare for, survive and recover from disasters, says the World Disasters Report 2013.

The Report, written by over 40 humanitarians and academics, emphasizes that during the first critical hours after an emergency, most lives saved are actually saved by local people, yet many of these ‘first responders’ do not have access to basic life-saving information and tools, such as early warning systems and mobile phones.

While “new technologies are greatly increasing disaster-affected communities’ capacity for self-help,” the Report acknowledges that access to these technologies is “deeply unequal” and highlights some shocking disparities:

·         There are more mobile phone subscriptions than people in Europe, but only 54 per cent of people in Africa have access to mobile phones

·         Internet use in developing countries is 6 per cent compared to 76 per cent in high income countries

·         Computer ownership in Africa is just 7 per cent, compared to 72 per cent in Europe.

The Report goes on to warn that as humanitarian agencies increasingly turn to social media as a source of information about disaster-affected communities’ needs, they run the risk of only listening to those who are connected, and excluding those who are not.

The Report urges the private sector, humanitarian organizations, governments and local communities to partner together to overcome these inequalities in access to technology for both populations and responders.

“The IFRC wants to use the World Disasters Report 2013 as a tool to engage with governments, the private sector, the humanitarian community, civil society and media, to advocate for innovative policies, increased investments and vibrant partnerships on technology,” says Finn-Jarle Rode, IFRC Regional Representative for eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. “The responsible use of technology offers concrete ways to make humanitarian assistance more effective, efficient and accountable, and can, in turn, directly reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience.”

At the launch, The IFRC together with other humanitarian and private sector organizations will team up in a market place to demonstrate various technologies used in life-saving efforts across eastern Africa. These include:

·         IFRC: Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA), an SMS text system designed for two-way communication and the potential use of early warning/early action, and Rapid Mobile Phone (RAMP) based surveys to improve the timeliness and accuracy of data collection

·         American Red Cross Society: Rapid Beneficiary System to manage cash transfers and relief distribution

·         Kenya Red Cross Society: Use of social media in emergency response

·         BBC Media Action: Lifeline programming

·         FrontlineSMS: Application to send, receive and manage SMS on computers

·         mFieldwork: Use of mobile technology to generate dynamic maps in humanitarian contexts

·         Safaricom: The Refugees United tool, a free, mobile and online platform that allows people to search for missing family members, friends, and relatives on a safe and anonymous basis. Safaricom will also demonstrate the Instant Networks technology

·         UN OCHA: Mapping of resilience projects in Kenya

·         UN World Food Programme: Use of biometrics to manage distribution of rations.

For more information, and advanced copies of the report, please contact:
Susan Onyango, Senior Communications Officer, IFRC
Tel: +254 734 880087
E-mail: [email protected]