Brainstorming Workshop on the Use of Technologies for Emergency Response

06 January 2014 – Held at Open Institute, a brainstorming workshop on “the Use of Technologies for Emergency Response” gathered national and international civil society organizations working on humanitarian and emergence response to share and discuss about potential uses of mobile technologies developed by USAID-funded SPICE program. Adding to its past success in using mobile technology for improving democratic process, the purpose of the workshop was to extend the use of technologies for development in humanitarian and emergency response.

Making it like Internet without technical and financial cost on infrastructure, Voice-based platform called Interactive Voice Response system was developed by the USAID-funded SPICE program in partnership with its private partners to allow civil society organizations to collect and share information through mobile phones, which majority of Cambodian population have access to. The program has also developed a few other applications to enable Khmer language in Smart phone and a few others related to information collection and sharing on a web-based platform, which is possible and beneficial for civil society organization to innovate their program development.

In the area of emergency response the Open Institute partner's People in Need has successfully used the IVR platform to timely deliver, through phone calls with pre-recorded messages of early warning, to residents of areas that would have imminent natural disaster. This successful use case of the technology was shared in the workshop and triggered interactive discussion to inform and discover the possible use of the platform.

Twenty participants from 13 organizations shared also their experiences on the use of SMS, and other technologies such as Ushahidi and Sahana to solve the problem of humanitarian and emergency response. The voice-based technology can be applied in emergency call messages in three components: announce a disaster, give an idea of its magnitude and advice on what should be taken care of or done.

While a lot of technologies seem to be plausible and applicable in timely manner, the main problem as discussed by participants was the human factor and the coordination of information flow by government. Some other concerns involved the sustainability of a platform when NGOs run out of funding.

As a concluding of the workshop, participants were furnished with some fresh ideas of using the some innovative technologies in their area and some who have successfully implemented it would scale up their work.