Tech@work when disasters strike

We are very vulnerable to nature’s fury. Natural disasters can strike anytime, anywhere. Floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and landslides are a recurrent phenomenon. The losses that developing countries suffer when a disaster hit are greater than that in developed countries. More than 95 percent of all deaths caused by disasters occur in developing countries, and losses due to natural disasters are 20 times greater (as a percentage of GDP) in developing countries, as per World Bank’s Disaster Risk Management Report of January 2011.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) like Internet, Geographical Inforamtion System (GIS), remote sensing, satellite communications, can play a great role in planning and implementation of hazards reduction measures. GIS can improve the quality and power of analysis of natural hazards, guide development activities and assist planners in the selection of mitigation measures and in the implementation of emergency preparedness and response action.

It is often said that ‘disasters don’t kill people, buildings do’. Realising the importance of robust and disaster resistant physical infrastructure, technology is being used for building earthquake- resistant buildings and bridges. Both traditional media (radio, television) as well as new media (cell broadcasting, Internet, satellite radio) also play a major role in educating the public on the risks of a potential or impending disaster, and in finding missing people.

ICT played a major role in alerting and connecting citizens before and after the March 11 (2011) earthquake and in Tsunami hit Japan. Different technologies have been installed in Japan to counter earthquakes. One of the examples is bridge design technology in Japan that proved effective to prevent more deaths. The sophisticated instruments installed to their structures by the Japanese engineers helped a lot in minimising the loss of life during earthquake.

Social media also played a huge role when communication system failed during the recent catastrophe in Japan. Japan’s tech networks, social media, and mobile smart-phones prevented much greater damage, and without them the recent disaster in Japan would have been a totally different experience. Although, the Japanese Tsunami was much bigger than the Tsunami which occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2004, yet the damage there was much less. At least 227,898 people died in Indian Ocean Tsunami, while the toll in Japan’s Tsunami was 1/8th. India and the world have a lot to learn from the Japanese experience and should ensure minimum damage from disaster by using latest technologies.

In this April issue of eGov, we are carrying a comprehensive coverage of the application of ICT in homeland security and disaster management and  reparedness. Continuing with the same agenda, eGov is organising ‘Secure IT   011’ – the National Convention on ICT in Public Safety and Security and  Disaster Management on April 20, 2011, in New Delhi. Please join us at the  Convention and be a part of its deliberations!