Islamabad, Pakistan: Innovative mobile phone technologies and applications are poised to help save lives and bring relief to millions of people in Pakistan affected by floods since late July. To meet the need for timely information, to identify requirements in flood-hit areas and to determine the precise locations of displacement, a portal called ‘Pakreport.org’ was set up by a group of individuals soon after the calamity began.
The map on the portal pinpoints areas where assistance is needed and enables users to directly report and access information. Information can be sent in by sending an SMS to 3441. The reports are then verified by administrators.
Faisal Chohan, a key member of the Pakreport team, told IRIN, “Pakreport.org provides two kinds of interfaces – to interact with the organisations and individuals. It provides them the opportunity to share their data through geo-coding with the outer world, and at the same time access information from other organisations.”
The portal is based on Ushahidi software, developed in Kenya to track data and information about people in crisis situations. The word “Ushahidi” means “testimony” in Swahili and its website was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after elections in 2008.
Pakreport.org is not the only initiative of this kind. US Agency for International Development administrator Rajiv Shah also invited people during a radio programme to share the latest information and updates on Pakistan flood recovery efforts by SMS-ing the word “FLOODS” to 7111. The “FLOODS” group is available on all mobile phone networks and allows users to join or initiate discussions by sending messages to other group partners. The service, known as Humari Awaz, was launched in October 2009 by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton during a visit to the country.
Maurizio Giuliano, public information officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said Pakreport and other innovations were of significance.
A brief developed by OCHA said humanitarian work had been aided by technologies using satellite data and GIS technologies. “Using their maps, organisations are able to do various things such as quickly gaining an understanding of the spatial aspects of the place of emergency, understand where relief efforts are being undertaken (or not undertaken), better target their relief efforts, better coordinate with others and simply have large reference maps for planning purposes.”
Source: IRIN Asia