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How Telecom Tools Address Some of the World's Toughest Challenges


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Presented on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 at "Mobile Technology & Social Change" by Michelle Fanzo of Four Corners Consulting. Event was organized by the New York Technology Council and held at Microsoft.

Published in: Technology, Business
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How Telecom Tools Address Some of the World's Toughest Challenges

  1. 1. How telecom tools addresssome of the worlds toughest challenges: OR HOW MY PHONE SAVED THE WORLD
  2. 2. How mobile tech makes a differenceAreas in international development and humanitarian assistance where mobile tech is used: to provide a rapid and coordinated response to emergencies and disasters; to develop health data systems that help combat disease; and as an agent or tool for international development activities.
  3. 3. Emergencies and disaster relief: Haiti Ushahidi: a platform first used in Kenya that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. Was first to deploy its platform in Haiti to determine the needs of victims and other relief and aid requirements on the ground. Sahana: a Sri Lankan engineered web based collaboration tool designed to address common coordination problems among actors involved in relief work - was also quick to deploy its platform in Haiti.
  4. 4. Health: Cell-Life in South Africa Uses mobile phones for home care of AIDS patients receiving ART treatments. Mobile tech facilitates individual patient care, but also builds a database of information on the severity and prevalence of the AIDS epidemic by region used for prevention and improved treatment. Goals: reduce treatment errors, increase the volume of patient data, and increase comfort for the patients,
  5. 5. International development Conflict prevention and management: SMS system collected alerts about violent outbreaks during civil unrest during Kenyan elections a few years ago. Provided real-time info about actual and planned attacks between rival ethnic and political groups. Resolve human-wildlife conflict in Africa: small farms, big elephants. More than 3,000 incidents occur annually in northern Kenya. Mobile comm. inexpensively pinpoints the elephants location (tags) and text messages the coordinates back to a central location.
  6. 6. International development Panama: disaster risk management: The situation: country prey to massive rainfalls, windstorms, floods, droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, tropical cyclones, tsunamis and El Niño episodes. Who’s at risk? Many people live in areas exposed to natural hazards. What’s needed?: an affordable system to keep local communities informed during disaster, facilitate communication, evacuation, and avoid loss of life. What happened?: Set up an early warning system with mobile phone, radio broadcasts, light systems. Monitored weather and water conditions, sent data to central place.
  7. 7. International development Liberia and Mauritania: Food Security and mobile tech: The situation: drought and desertification are making it very hard to grown food = massive food shortages. Who’s at risk? Poor Liberians: 41% food insecure; 42% chronic malnutrition. 2/3 of food is imported; 64% of the population lives on $1 per day or less. What’s needed?: early warning of food situation by developing centralized data collection. What happened?: food markets monitored for food prices and availability. Data sent by SMS to central database. Government and NGOs see the data, can target interventions
  8. 8. International development Afghanistan: emergency health access: The situation: access to emergency healthcare is very limited. Who’s at risk? All, especially pregnant women and children under five. What’s needed: transport to hospital. Wanted to fill communication gap with phone. What happened?: didn’t think about short vs. long term need/thinking (phone card/car). Didn’t alert hospital, or think about limited capacity of hospital.
  9. 9. Trends/ Benefits/ Shortcomings Trends: How UN/ NGO staff use mobile tech: voice calls, text messaging, mapping, data analysis and inventory management, photo and video, data collection or transfer, and multi-media messaging. Benefits: real-time response, access, affordability, accountability, transparency, public participation. Shortcomings: can facilitate change, but change to what? Need context for info receiving, need to standardize reporting, open data sharing policies, sustainability, training, cost.
  10. 10. What’s it all mean? Sharing knowledge = power Who’s paying, who’s benefiting, who’s controlling the info? Burma: biggest BarCamp in the world yesterday.