March 2005

Disaster Feature

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An earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered the Dec. 26 tsunami, which killed more than 200,000 people in 11 nations and caused immense life and property damage. This catastrophe struck everyone how ill equipped we are to face such disasters. The i4d monthly disaster feature updates you with the follow-ups that are taking place world wide for disaster preparedness and management.

There was a growing appreciation among people that ICT can play a crucial role in the disaster warning, disaster reduction and post disaster rehabilitation. Recently, two meetings were held in Thailand to discuss the function of ICT in disaster management.

Some member countries of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) had experienced severe damage to life and property caused by the tsunami disaster. In view of the urgency of the matter, a joint APT-ITU Meeting on the Role of ICT for Disaster Reduction was held on 28th February, 2005 after the opening of the 2nd APT Conference Preparatory Group for WRC-2007 (APG 2007-2) in Thailand.

The meeting addressed the key issues on the role of ICT to prevent disaster in the Asia Pacific region. The meeting aimed to furnish APT members with comprehensive knowledge of the disaster awareness and vigilance and brought out the various ways in which ICT tools could be used to give advance warnings of such imminent disasters.

The topics of the meeting included; Disaster Awareness and Preparedness, Disaster Prevention and Recovery, ICT Tools for Disaster Management, Disaster Prevention Network, Post Disaster Recovery, Development of Warning Systems for the Asia Pacific Region. The top Disaster Management experts and leaders in ICT, Wireless and Radio fields attended the meeting. It was an excellent opportunity to share views on matters of common interest and networking among APT members.

In Thailand, another conference named “Phuket International ICT Conference for Disaster Recovery Management and Global Warning: Learning from Tsunami” took place, which had initiated a thought of using ICT for disaster recovery. 1000 delegates from a number of International companies attended the event with a vision of finding out the hundred of ways that current technology already in place can help minimise the losses in times of a crisis. Networks, devices, infrastructures, radio, mobile, fixed, short and long, narrow and broad bands should be used as a strong communication tool instead of using them only as a mere commercial channels.

Dr. Tadashi Shiomi, the Vice President of Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), for example, has developed a sophisticated Japanese disaster central system for disaster warning, prevention and rescue. The system is managed by the Cabinet and related agencies, and uses a wireless networks through satellite communications, wired networks, broadcasting and the Internet to deliver messages. According to the California based technology company, Qualcomm, mobile phones with Global Positioning System (GPS) could help locate people even inside of buildings. In order to retain the public security, phones could also have buttons to make emergency calls and push-to-talk technology could be used as a real-time communication.

The meeting highlighted the features of Content Management (CM) Technologies that permit users, organisations and individuals to interact in real time with Internet applications and protocols in order to publish real time data.

Other countries have also taken part in setting up warning systems to fight against natural disasters.

Experts from the United Nations and Indian Ocean countries agreed on setting up an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system by the end of 2006 to prevent a repeat of the tsunami disaster. The decision was announced at the close of a five-day meeting in Paris, recently, to discuss putting an effective tsunami warning system.

Nigerian Meteorelogical Agency (NIMET) has decided of setting up a Weather Early Warning System (WEWS) to enable it prepare adequately for catastrophes like the tsunami that ravaged Eastern Asia and some parts of Africa last year. In achieving this objective, NIMET's Director General, Liwhu Akeh, disclosed that the Agency has started the acquisition of advanced Doppler Weather Radars to monitor natural disasters and storms before they occur, adding that the equipment will assist with relevant information for farmers in rural areas.

The Indian Union Minister for Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal has announced, recently, while delivering his valedictory speech at the fifth All India People's Technology Congress organised by Forum of Scientists, Engineers and Technologists (FOSET) in the Indian city of Kolkata, that the centre would spend $6.6 million in developing tsunami warning system.

Malaysia has decided to set up a tsunami warning system costing $5 million by the end of this year. American and Japanese maritime experts will help install the system around the coast of Northern Peninsular Malaysia, as well as Sabah and Sarawak state on Borneo Island.

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