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|Saturday, 01 October 2011 13:52|
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Cites Souktel in Remarks on East Africa Food Crisis.
As the food crisis in Somalia and Kenya worsens, and the U.S. government ramps up its response, Sec. Hillary Clinton has been offering a series of updates. In a speech on August 11, hosted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, she outlined her reaction to "the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today."
Addressing the various possibilities for aid delivery, Clinton explained the ways in which she and her colleagues were "looking [for] innovative ideas for reducing hunger and food insecurity”. Among them, she noted that the State Department will now begin “working with a tech company on the ground in Africa called Souktel to text life-saving information to people across the region, so they know where relief can be found."
In the weeks ahead, as this cooperation takes shape, Souktel will provide regular Twitter updates on these efforts to help combat the crisis through mobile services. To hear or read Sec. Clinton’s speech in its entirety, click here.
Souktel Partners With TechChange to Train Palestinian Software Developers on Mobile Crisis Response & Crowdmapping
In the Gaza conflict of 2009, Souktel joined forces with “crisis mapping” leaders Ushahidi, and media network al-Jazeera, to create a way for citizens on the ground to report incidences of violence through their mobile phones. Now, as conflict flares up again in the region, these kinds of tech partnerships are becoming all the more crucial.
This month, Souktel paired up with US-based TechChange--a leading technology training institute--to host the first-ever training on the Ushahidi crisis mapping platform for software developers in Palestine. The aim was to explore how both SMS and “crowdmapping” (where large numbers of citizen-created incident reports are shown on a single map) might play a role in crisis response: For international aid agencies and local non-profits, these tools could help create a clearer picture of where help is needed most.
The training session had three parts: A simulation in which ambulances had to be directed via SMS through military checkpoints after a major attack; the creation of an Ushahidi map and thinking strategically about its application; and finally, registering for the Standby Task Force, a global community of mappers who spring into action when crisis events start--having helped in the Haiti earthquake, and in Sudan and Pakistan (among other crisis zones).
For the training exercises, "participants organized themselves into teams with differentiated roles,” explains Christopher Neu, Director for Middle East Programs at TechChange. Their challenge was “to make sense of an onslaught of contradictory text messages, so that they could save as many lives as possible."
While the training was just a simulation, the potential need for crisis mapping is real--and its ability to help is significant. “After the Haiti earthquake, aid providers like the Red Cross and UN World Food Program used Ushahidi ‘crowdmaps’ to get a clear, real-time picture of where aid was needed,” explains Souktel co-founder Jacob Korenblum. “With this training, we’re aiming to start a similar network in Palestine and other Middle East countries--so that when crisis events happen here, aid providers can use data from SMS reports on the ground to plan their response”.
What is Souktel? The SMS Advantage
Souktel is a unique service that helps aid providers get news and data to/from local communities—through SMS (text-message) alerts and surveys on mobile phones. Learn how Souktel’s SMS technology helps aid providers save time, save money, and connect with more people than ever. See our SMS demos. Meet our users. Find out how Souktel can help you: www.souktel.org