Last week, at Google’s London offices, Souktel’s Kristen Roggemann was one of the first to kick off a series of talks at a media and tech fair hosted by the Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities network (CDAC).
The conference was devoted to the goal of connecting aid agencies with populations in need, using new technologies—especially cell phones. As CDAC noted in its conference press release, this is “a world where 90% of us have access to a mobile.”
Roggemann spoke to the crowd, which included representatives from BBC Media Action, the UN Population Fund and mobile network umbrella association GSMA, about Souktel’s recent experience working with UNESCO in Gaza: In this conflict zone, Souktel created an early-warning system that lets school principals send emergency SMS alerts to students and families in the wake of sudden attacks near the school area.
“This is especially relevant,” says Roggemann, “because the system is used actively: Two weeks ago, principals sent emergency alerts to students and their parents when another round of rocket fire hit the northern Gaza Strip”.
“As an organization based in Palestine, we know all too well the reality of crisis response,” she adds, “but we’ve leveraged this to our advantage: Our technology is developed locally, so it’s built for crisis and conflict situations. We’ve since been able to deploy our mobile alert and data collection systems in Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and other regions coping with instability.”
Other speakers at the conference, which took place on March 22 and 23, included Nigel Snoad, product manager at Google Crisis Response; Pierre Kremer, head of communication for the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies; and Erik Hersman, co-founder of Ushahidi (the leading crowd-sourced mapping platform).
A few tweets from the conference:
We don’t empower communities by giving them info, they empower themselves by giving us info that we can act on @komunikasikan #commisaid – Reeni Amin Chua
“The simpler, the better” Kristen from @souktel #commisaid – Ushahidi
People who are not traditional humanitarian actors are taking on humanitarian roles, driven by the democratisation of technology #commisaid – BBC Media Action
@souktel: “be simple, be creative and learn from the community around you” #commisaid – Anahi Ayala Iacucci, Internews