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Haiti Earthquake Prompts Tech Aid

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean nation of Haiti on January 12 was a huge tragedy for the country’s people and for the large international aid community, including the United Nations. But the disaster has seen the use of new information technologies – often assembled by volunteers – to bridge the gaps in critical information and bring a semblance of order to the chaos of a large disaster. And many of the technologies being used in Haiti now arose from past disasters and crises in the South.

Remarkable stories from the disaster include a woman who used her mobile phone to text message Canadian officials she was trapped and needed rescue, to a filmmaker who used an application on his iPhone (http://www.apple.com/iphone/) to treat his wounds: “I was able to look up treatment of excessive bleeding and compound fracture, so I used my shirt to tie my leg and a sock on the back of my head and later used it for other things like to diagnose shock,” claimed Dan Woolley to NBC Miami.

Measuring 7.0 in magnitude (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake), the quake killed over 212,000 people, injured 300,000 and affected more than 3 million out of Haiti’s population of 9 million. Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes and are now dependent on food aid to survive. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and is ranked 149th of 182 countries on the Human Development Index.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, communications were knocked out and it was difficult to grasp the scale of the disaster. Major infrastructure was either severely damaged or completely destroyed.

The public telephone system went down, and the two largest cell phone providers, Digicel and Comcel Haiti, were both disrupted. Most radio stations went off the air in the immediate aftermath and a week later, just 20 of the 50 stations in Port-au-Prince were back on air.

This represented the worst of all scenarios for disaster response: not only was the scale of the tragedy enormous, but existing government structures and the large international aid mission were equally badly hit. First responders and the government’s infrastructure were paralyzed in the hours after the disaster and it took some time for the aid response to build to significant levels.

But while communications were down in the country, outside it was a different story: people around the world were using the internet and mobile phones to begin piecing together the e-response to the earthquake.

After the disaster, technology-savvy volunteers around the world kicked into action to find ways to help. They have built software to aid in tracking people, using technology to map the disaster area and ways to use mobile phone text messages to find the missing.

Kenya’s Ushahidi (www.ushahidi.com) is a free software mashup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashup_%28web_application_hybrid%29) born after the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007 and 2008. It gathers citizen-generated crisis information – SMS (text messages), email or web resources – and then places the information on a map or timeline. It is put together by volunteers from Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, the Netherlands and the United States.

Ushahidi’s founder is Kenyan Ory Okolloh, and the first version of the software for download is called “Mogadishu,” after the capital of Somalia.

It was put to use in Haiti (http://haiti.ushahidi.com/reports/submit) as users populated its online maps and timelines with information on the location of people in need of food and water, those trapped in rubble or those in need of medical attention. It is a real-time reporting system for people in a disaster, offering a way for people in need to broadcast to the outside world.

Sample reports on the timeline look like this (http://haiti.ushahidi.com/reports): ” SOS food, water and care needed in the Bertin Zone of Carrefour S.O.S. for the people of Carefour in the Bertin area, Titus Road, Froide River, these people haven’t recieved anything yet like water, food, care.”

“Alive under the Rubble of Bar Lakay Restaurant, Ave. Christophe 6633. Carole Joseph is alive under the rubble of the Bar Lakay restaurant on Avenue Christophe.”

The UN estimates there are more than 900 non-governmental organizations operating in Haiti. One of the best ways to try and coordinate this large aid response is through innovative information technology.

The Ushahidi software has spawned many creative variations to track a wide range of problems. In the Philippines, TXTpower (http://www.cp-union.com/ushahidi/) is put together by the Computer Professionals’ Union to keep an eye on mobile phone companies and their business practices. In Mexico, a mashup (http://www.cuidemoselvoto.org/) was put together for the 2009 federal elections. Stop Stockouts (http://stopstockouts.org/) keeps track of near real-time pharmacy and medical supplies in health facilities and pharmacies in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia.

In San Diego, California, computer programmer Tim Schwartz quickly contacted his network of fellow programmers to address the problem of information being spread too widely across many web sources. In a few hours they put together http://www.haitianquake.com, a way for people to post and locate missing relatives.

It was online in less than 24 hours. It was followed by many other similar services and they were merged into a service eventually put together by Google called PersonFinder two days later. Google’s PersonFinder grew to have more than 32,000 missing people listed.

Another response has been Crisis Camps (http://crisiscampmiami.org/) in London England and cities across the United States. Technology workers got together to brainstorm relevant solutions to help the aid effort, and developed tools including Tweak the Tweet, Port Au Prince Basemap (up-to-date data on what his happening on the ground), The Haiti Timeline (developing a real-time history of events as they unfold), Family Reunification Systems, crisis wikis (http://crisiscommons.org/wiki/index.php?title=Crisis_Wiki), Mobile Applications 4 Crisis Response, translation (Creole to English for example), Mapping NGOs in Action (in the chaos of a crisis, this seeks to track what NGOs are working where), We Need, We Have Exchange (a way to post requests for resources or help).

“It really is amazing the change in the way crisis response can be done now,” Noel Dickover, a Washington, DC-based organiser of the Crisis Camp tech volunteer movement, told The Independent newspaper.

“Developers, crisis mappers and even internet-savvy folks can actually make a difference.”

Josh Nesbit is a co-creator of a text message service for mobile phones that is being used by international organizations like the United Nations and the Red Cross. Haitians are able to send free text messages from mobile phones on the country’s Digicel service. The messages include requests for water and food. The messages are organized and tagged with key words by volunteers in the Haitian community in New York City, and Haitian radio stations promote the service. It was developed based on similar systems already running in hospitals in Malawi.

In Haiti, mobile phone networks were back up and running within a few days – many within 24 hours. Haiti is poor, but it nonetheless has impressive mobile phone ownership rates: one-in-three people has one.

OpenStreetMap (http://www.openstreetmap.org/) is another excellent resource in a disaster and represents a significant step forward in helping people to respond. Real time data is uploaded to satellite photographs of the disaster area and people then can add updates on the location of working hospitals or where infrastructure has been damaged. The information comes in by many forms, from the micro-blogging service Twitter (www.twitter.com) to eyewitness reports.

Reports from Haiti have talked of rescue teams uploading the maps to their GPS (global positioning system) devices for easy access, or printing then in A4 form to carry around.

The utility of this service has been confirmed by many working on helping Haiti. “We have already been using their data in our initial post-disaster needs assessment,” Stuart Gill of the World Bank told The Independent.

Dutch mobile phone maker Intivation (http://www.intivation.nl/) is distributing for free solar-powered mobile phones in Haiti to help with aid efforts and is launching the phones for sale around the world as well.

Resources

1) SMS activism: A blog report on how people are using SMS text messaging in the developing world. Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/katine-chronicles-blog/2010/feb/02/mobile-phone-sms-uprising

2) The Magazine Popular Mechanics has excellent resources on how anyone can prepare their family and community for disasters. Website:http://www.popularmechanics.com/survival/

3) The US Government has extensive resources online on how to prepare for a wide variety of natural and man-made disasters. Website: http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/

4) UNICEF: Community-Based Disaster Preparedness Projects (CBDPs) in India have been helping communities restructure to survive when disaster strikes. Website:http://www.unicef.org.uk/campaigns

5) How to activate support from the global technology community in a disaster. Website: http://crisiscommons.org/

6) International Community on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management: They will be having their conference on Defining Crisis Management 3.0 from May 2-5, 2010 in Seattle Washington USA. Website:http://www.iscram.org/

7) Telecoms Sans Frontiers: Focuses on providing communications in the first days after an emergency. Website: http://www.tsfi.org/

8) InSTEDD NGO: InSTEDD’s mission is to harness the power of technology to improve collaboration for global health and humanitarian action. An innovation lab for tools designed to strengthen networks, build community resilience and improve early detection and response to major health-related events and natural or human-caused disasters. Website: http://instedd.org/

9) Web mash-ups: Programmable Web website offers all the resources required to get started. Website:www.programmableweb.com/

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: February 2010

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=p03–n51i44C&dq=development+challenges+april+2008&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsapril2008issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

More on Haiti here: State Of Decay: Haiti Turns To Free-Market Economics And The UN To Save Itself

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Disaster Recovery, Ten Years After: The Gujarat, India Experience

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

In the past decade, there have been many devastating natural disasters, from Iran’s 2003 Bam earthquake and the Asian tsunami of 2004 to Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005 and the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti in 2010. All of these events received extensive media attention and drew a large aid response. Those who track natural disasters have noticed a serious increase in frequency over the past decade (http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article26290.html).

But rapid aid and media attention do not necessarily lead to long-term recovery. More than a year after the earthquake in Haiti, pace of recovery remains slow. Numerous media stories highlighted the lack of progress.

For the people caught up in these tragedies, quickly returning to a normal life is paramount for psychological and physical health. But this is often the hardest part. Some countries do this well and others do not.

On January 26, 2001, an earthquake laid waste to a large region of the Indian state of Gujarat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Gujarat_earthquake). Ten years later there is a remarkable recovery that has taken place. So how did they do it?

The 7.9-magnitude quake killed an estimated 20,000 people, injured 150,000, made a million homeless, and destroyed around 8,000 villages. It devastated the Kutch district capital, Bhuj, and other major towns.

In the decade since the earthquake, the state has averaged double-digit growth. Despite having only five percent of the country’s population, Gujarat racks up impressive economic achievements: it has a fifth of India’s exports and a sixth of its industrial production. It has a long-standing entrepreneurial culture based on trade. It can draw on a well-connected global diaspora that ensures a steady inflow of new thinking and investment. Members of this diaspora also contributed to the US $130 million in aid that poured into the region after the quake.

One of the factors contributing to the successful recovery is effective government action.

The disaster has been turned into an opportunity to jolt the region out of the “Middle Ages and into the modern world,” NGO worker Navin Prasad told the BBC.

All the media attention, support and cash at the time forced the Indian government to pay attention to a region it had ignored in the past.

The army came in to help with the emergency and the Indian government allocated US $2 billion to the reconstruction that followed.

Aid was used well and in the first two years many of the damaged villages were rebuilt. And not just rebuilt to what they were, but completely modernized. New houses were constructed to high standards, with more rooms and lots of light. They also came with running water and a toilet. New facilities like medical centres and communal areas were put in place.

The district capital of Bhuj was levelled in the earthquake. But new plans for the city were drafted in the following years. Now Bhuj has two new ring roads, a new airport, parks and shops. Streets were widened and new water and sewage works installed.

But along with the new infrastructure and plenty of cash, came something more important for the region’s long-term recovery: economic growth. The Indian government created tax-free zones drawing in private investment. An astonishing US $10 billion in private investment has come in with US $7 billion more to come, according to the BBC.

One miraculous turnaround is in the former tiny fishing port of Mundra. Prior to the earthquake, it sat in the middle of a salt marsh. It is now India’s largest private port and rivals Mumbai with its Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone (http://www.portofmundra.com/), incorporated in 2003. The Adani Group, a very large Indian private company with global interests (http://www.adanigroup.com/index.html), owns the port now worth US $7 billion, hiring many people once dependent on aid agencies for income.

The head of the Adani Foundation the charitable wing of the Adani Group, Sushma Oza, told the BBC how the company is spending its profits on further developing the area: “Our own budget for social development in this region is $6m a year, so you can imagine how we are trying to change the lives of people to live in a better way,” she said.

In the western portion of the state, in the administrative district of Kutch which is home to Bhuj, around 300 businesses have been established, including the Welspun towel factory (http://www.welspun.com/content.asp?Link=Y&SubmenuID=24). The biggest towel factory in the world, it was built in just nine months and makes 250,000 towels a day. An ambitious firm, it bought the British company Christy (http://www.christy-towels.com/), maker of the official Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship towels.

So why towels in Kutch? Welspun chairman Balkrishan Goenka laid down the incentives to the BBC: “There were no local taxes for the first five years and no excise duties. Nor were there indirect taxes to government – they were exempted for five years.”

“Those were the primary benefits,” he said. “More than that there was huge support from the local government so industry can come faster.”

Since the earthquake, 110,000 jobs have been created in Kutch alone. More importantly for the area’s future, it is has gone from neglected backwater to a significant pillar of the Indian economy.

Another driver of recovery was the growth of the dairy industry. The Bhuj dairy plant collapsed in the earthquake and was then rebuilt by the National Dairy Development Board (http://www.nddb.org/). The plant can now process 50,000 litres of milk a day and is run by the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (http://www.amul.com/organisation.html), India’s largest food products marketing organization. It has 2.9 million producer members and represents 15,322 village societies.

Not everyone has turned their lives around, however. Aid workers estimate thousands are still living in temporary shelters. They defecate in the open and few have clean water. Just getting two meals a day is a problem.

There are complaints about the landless and tenants not receiving the same help.

“Many are tribal, others are low-caste communities, some are Muslims – but they all have one thing in common: poverty,” Bharat Parmer, program coordinator for ActionAid International in Kutch, told Alertnet.

“A large number of these people were tenants and did not own land and so it has been much harder for them to claim their rights as rehabilitation was very much focused on home and land owners.”

But local authorities say rehabilitation schemes have been comprehensive, covering all those who were hit by the quake.

“I don’t think that there are people who did not get what they were due – there may be a rare case here and there but we have rehabilitated all that were in need,” said Gunvant Vaghela, the second-most senior civil servant in Kutch district.

Resources

1) How to activate support from the global technology community in a disaster. Website: http://crisiscommons.org/

2) UNICEF: Community-Based Disaster Preparedness Projects (CBDPs) in India have been helping communities restructure to survive when disaster strikes. Website: http://www.unicef.org.uk/campaigns

3) The US Government has extensive resources online on how to prepare for a wide variety of natural and man-made disasters. Website: http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/

4) The magazine Popular Mechanics has excellent resources on how anyone can prepare their family and community for disasters. Website: http://www.popularmechanics.com/survival/

5)  Telecoms Sans Frontiers: Focuses on providing communications in the first days after an emergency. Website: http://www.tsfi.org/

On the ground reporting from the Associated Press (AP) Archive: India: Earthquake Aftermath Update 

Published: February 2011

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=p03–n51i44C&dq=development+challenges+april+2008&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsapril2008issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Mongolian Green Book

In the Mongolian language, the book details effective ways to live in harmony with the environment while achieving development goals. Based on three years’ work in Mongolia – a Northeast Asian nation coping with desertification, mining, and climate change – the book presents tested strategies.  

Publisher: EPAP and UNDP Mongolia Communications Office
Published: 1999
Author: Robert Ferguson 

European Union. europa.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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In Their Own Words: Selected Writings By Journalists On Mongolia, 1997-1999 | 6 January 2010

Launched in 1999 towards the end of my two-year assignment in Mongolia, this book is a unique resource for a developing country: a one-stop compilation of journalism chronicling the ups and downs of life in a country where the political and economic system has been turned on its head. You can download an edited selection of the book from Google Books here: In their own words: Selected writings by journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999

Now also available at the University of Toronto: https://search.library.utoronto.ca/details?3403065

The UNDP Mongolia Communications Office aided many journalists to cover Mongolia from 1997-1999. Two examples are below:

“Herding instinct” by Jill Lawless, The Guardian, 9 June 1999.
“A Mongolian Shopping Spree Fizzles” by Thomas Crampton, The New York Times, June 25, 1998.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2020