Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

Not many people would think of satellite technology as something that is helpful for developing countries, but it is an investment that can help countries achieve more sustainable development. Satellites’ ability to connect and communicate is essential for developing countries, especially in rural areas. These advancements are a boon to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by the United Nations in 2015.

Some specific ways that satellite technology can be used by developing countries are for communication in disaster areas, obtaining information about weather for use in agriculture and fishing and sharing medical information. By improving these areas, satellite technology can be used as one solution for many SDGs. For example, by using information gathered about agriculture and fisheries, satellites are assisting in the development of economies. In some countries, illegal fishing is a problem that satellite technology can help reduce, which improves the livelihoods and security of people in the fishing industry. Communication about healthcare (for general care or in disaster areas) and education improves people’s safety and gives them access to education.

Satellite technology is helping developing countries such as Indonesia and Nigeria. In Indonesia, the U.K. space agency Inmarsat has a program aimed at improving the management of the fishing industry, which is important to the economy in Indonesia. The program uses satellite-based tools on fishing boats in order for the government to collect data that can reduce illegal fishing practices, while also being a tool to relay information about the weather to fishermen that are out at sea.

In Nigeria, Inmarsat has launched another project that is benefiting healthcare systems. Satellite technology is being used in research institutions as well as the federal and state health centers. The research institutions are using satellite technology for data collection to see what needs to be improved. The health centers use satellite technology for communication, disease surveillance and video-based training for their staff.

By helping improve communication and data collection, satellites are a beneficial investment for the sustainable development of countries. The improvements that can be made to their economies as well as their healthcare systems can improve people’s security and save lives.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr