2011 is over, but the impact technology had on humanitarian aid planning last year could be just beginning to emerge.
Humanitarian issues demand immediate solutions. In 2011, a lot of solutions to crises placed heavy emphasis on technology. Here are three notable examples:
Disaster prone Bangladesh turned to GPS to provide early weather warnings to fishermen.
Airtel, a private mobile operator in Bangladesh will provide early weather warnings to fishermen using its global positioning system via cell phones in partnership with the Center for Global Change, the Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods and two international NGOs, according to IRIN.
More than half on Bangladesh’s population uses mobile phones. Early weather warnings could prove to be a life-saving tool. "75 percent of the country’s population lives in rural, disaster-prone areas, an ideal environment in which to exploit the potential of mobile phones to mitigate disasters," IRIN reported.
Technology has helped put Kibera on the map, literally.
Finding Kibera, a district of Nairobi, on a map before 2009 was not an easy task because it wasn’t on one. The location of schools, medical facilities, water points and other basic information was simply not available. As a result, The Map Kibera Project was created in order to provide this information. The goal: to train nine Kibera residents in using GPS devices to gather geographical information in a "citizen mapping" project.
Now this information is available on OpenStreetMap, a global map anyone can view and edit. Organizers plan to continue adding information on the map and eventually start mapping other communities.
Mobile phones have turned ordinary people into extraordinary philanthropists.
This past year, one of the worst famines in modern history struck the Horn of Africa. Humanitarian aid and donor government assistance poured in from all over the world. One campaign, "Kenyans for Kenya," set a goal to raise $5.28 million dollars in one month. Within 10 days, the goal was met and a bigger goal of $10.56 million set. By September 1, more than $7 million was collected, $1.6 million through private donations.
Contributions, most of them from Kenyan citizens and organizations, were made through a mobile phone money transfer service operated by telecom firm Safaricom. The money collected has been used to send money to affected areas through the Kenyan Red Cross Society, IRIN reports. This has been one of the most successful humanitarian fundraising campaigns Kenya has ever seen, and its efforts are ongoing.
These are only a few examples of how technology has positively impacted humanitarian responses to crises. Technology isn’t the answer to all the world’s problems, but it’s proving to be an effective tool.