The Role of Mobile Phones during Calamity

Mobile use has spread rapidly, especially in some developing countries. Some poor countries are very vulnerable to natural disasters, and many are badly affected when disaster does strike because their infrastructure and emergency response capabilities are often weak.


However though, mobile technology has expanded dramatically around the world. In a review made by The Peterson Group to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, global mobile data traffic has doubled for the fourth year in a row. And looking toward the future, the report estimates that “global mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold between 2011 and 2016.” By the end of that time period, 10 billion mobile devices are projected to be in use around the world.


With its growing usage, this technology is greatly improving disaster relief and public safety efforts. Countries around the world face threats from natural disasters, climate change, civil unrest, terrorist attacks, scams and fraudulent acts, among others. Mobile devices, tablets, and smart phones enable emergency providers and the general public to manage these challenges and mitigate public safety concerns.


On Tuesday, 12th of January 2010, a magnitude of 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti and due to the population density of that area, what unfolds was one of the largest sudden onset emergencies in the Western Hemisphere has ever given. Many lives were lost, homes shattered and families destroyed. People started to give a hand out to help. The government also gave thought of ways to expand the support for the victims. With the help of telecommunication companies, they started a text campaign which every SMS would give a single dollar for the benefit of the Haiti victims. More or less a million dollars were gathered for that cause. Same happened on the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Sumatra, Indonesia, just a few islands away from the country’s capital, Jakarta.


In response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina (2005), the earthquake in Haiti (2010), earthquake and tsunamis in Japan (2011), and the Oklahoma tornados (2013), mobile invention and application have skyrocketed. Mobile development has surged in reaction to the increase in need for instant and accurate information. In Australia, for example, researchers have created software that combines voiceover IP technology with Wi-Fi to enable communication between mobile devices in areas where there is no available reception. Such a feature is of critical importance in cases where traditional communications networks are knocked offline for extended periods of time during or after a major crisis.