ICTs vital in empowering local communities in disaster risk reduction
“With good planning, the same information and communication technologies used to provide social services can be used in weather prediction, environmental monitoring, dissemination of timely alerts, and exchange of information among the humanitarian community for the coordination of activities during emergencies,” said Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, speaking on 14 March at an International Forum on the use of ICTs for Disaster Risk Reduction, in Sendai Japan.
The forum was organized by the Government of Japan on the sidelines of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai from 14 to 18 March.
Mr Sanou called for a more innovative use of ICTs, “to empower local communities to act as first responders when a country is affected by disasters.”
He said that the big data revolution can make a huge contribution to disaster risk reduction by providing vital risk assessment tools prior and in the aftermath of a disaster.
Mr Yasuo Sakamoto, Vice Minister for Policy Coordination of Japan said that his country is a major contributor to the international financing of disaster risk reduction and has been working in several countries “on projects and programmes that make use of ICTs for disaster risk reduction.
“Japan contributes to the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction in the international community and advocates for disaster preparedness in all development polices and projects,” he said.
Mr Said Faisal, Executive Director of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management spoke on the role of the center in disaster monitoring, preparedness and response.
“One of important ICT tools available at the center is the ASEAN WebEOC system which is an emergency communications platform where information regarding any incidents can be disseminated to ASEAN Member States and vice versa,” he said. “Coordinated communication and information sharing is real-time supporting decision making process during an emergency situation.”
Mr Toru Yamashita, Chief Corporate Adviser at NTT Data Corporation, highlighted how Japan had incorporated ICTs into its disaster management systems and spoke about the efforts being made to share the lessons learned with other countries in the Asia Pacific region.
Also at the forum was the BHN Association of Japan which is installing solar powered disaster early warning systems in 160 villages in the Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar and community radio stations in Hatiya Island in Bangladesh.
“These are cyclone high risk areas and access to systems that can relay information on impending disasters swiftly to communities in remote and hard to reach areas is critical,” said Mr Masanori Sato, Chairman of the BHN Association.
Mr Sanou stressed the need for more partnerships between governments, private sector, inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and universities, “to bring out bright ideas that could contribute to disaster risk reduction.” He added that local communities must be at the heart of any project and partnerships in order to promote sustainable development.