NetHope recently launched an appeal to support its member organizations responding to the severe outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented in terms of the number of cases, deaths and its geographical spread. NetHope’s main focus is to assist its NGO member organizations and other responders with information and communication technology (ICT) aspects of the response.
When disaster strikes, food, clean water and shelter for those affected are always hailed as top priority. While there is no argument that those basic life-sustaining necessities need to be quickly met, technologies can be overlooked as highest-ranking essentials, even though it often helps victims find aid, shelter or relatives in an emergency; restored communication is paramount to emergency response.
No matter what kind of relief our member organizations are bringing to a disaster area – water, food, shelter, medicine – they require access to reliable information about the situation in the affected areas to make decisions about how much aid is needed and where it needs to be distributed. This requires access to important data. In order to share and receive that information, we need to have a way to communication with each other and with affected population.
Last year was the costliest year in natural disasters that the world has ever seen. According to a report issued by global reinsurance firm Munich Re, world disasters in 2011 caused damages exceeding more than a third of a trillion dollars. And, experts at The World Bank predict that natural disasters will only get worse in the future, largely due to two powerful trends: burgeoning cities and a changing climate.
As the world prepares to cope with the high costs and other devastating effects of future earthquakes, tsunamis and more, it must find a better way to manage the chaotic environment that follows these disasters.
I have a confession to make… I will never be a techie. I will never be fascinated by how an appliance works, never be thrilled by opening something to see how it is wired, and never be carried away by software codes or new, integrated solutions.
I am fascinated by the art of information management though: how data is collected, collated, analysed and processed into information. When it comes to emergency response, we always endeavour to improve the quality of information to make more qualified decisions in disasters. In a rapidly changing emergency environment, information is rendered useless for decision-making if not disseminated at the right time to the right recipient in the right format.