A cellular firm has joined hands with a humanitarian relief organisation to mitigate the impact of disasters by introducing innovative location-based early warning SMS system for the Beneficiary Communications Project.
The agreement was signed by Telenor Pakistan CEO Michael Patrick Foley and PRCS Secretary General Mehboob Sardar in the presence of IT and Telecom Minister Anusha Rehman at PRCS National Headquarters, informed a press release issued on Thursday.
The project is designed to ensure preparedness and mitigation of a disaster through emergency response, emergency recovery, rehabilitation and development.
The Beneficiary Communication Project will allow aid agencies and mobile phone users in disaster-hit areas to interact in real time through SMS text system.
The project is jointly funded by International Federation of Red Crescent (IFRC) and Telenor Pakistan.
Sharing her views, the minister said it was good to see the collaboration aimed at bringing positive social change.
Foley said, the “system allows PRCS to specify a particular region or even a neighbourhood to which text messages will be sent on mobile phones. The messages elicit response from mobile phone users in need of aid, giving them an effective voice on how assistance should be delivered.”
He said the project would engage communities in dialogue and integrate beneficiary feedback into the decision-making process of the emergency response programmes.
PRCS Chairman Dr Saud Elahi said, “One of the major challenges being faced by humanitarian organisations in natural-disaster areas is the lack of early warning for affectees that can mitigate the effects and save lives.”
He added that the available telecommunications services in the country after these disasters were immediately congested and choked causing extreme difficulty in establishing reliable communication with the affected community. “It increases the necessity of a dedicated system that can respond better in such a situation,” Elahi added.
The system will link PRCS with the community at large in times of disaster through location-based opt-in service for the mobile phone service provider’s subscribers.
The service will enable subscribers to receive timely messages pertaining to disaster alerts, relief, pre/post emergency awareness and aid disbursement and the project will focus on disaster prone areas of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.