Using mobile phone technologies for disaster risk management: reflections from SHEAR, June 2021 – Worldwide


The reach of mobile networks has grown considerably over the past decade, with around 93% of the world’s population covered by a mobile broadband network. in South Asia.ii By the end of 2019, more than 3.7 billion people were connected to mobile internet.iii The increase in coverage, possession and use of mobile phones has improved the access to communications for more vulnerable people and communities than ever before. Such access offers new opportunities to reduce disaster risk.

Natural hazard disasters have killed 1.35 million people over the past 20 years, 90% of them in low- and middle-income countries.iv Disasters cause severe economic losses, undermine development progress and enhance poverty and its impacts on households, communities and countries. The destruction and damage can take decades to fully recover. As the effects of climate change become more tangible, vulnerable and hazard-prone communities face growing, complex and worsening challenges.

In addition to supporting resilience building and response activities, expanding mobile coverage, increasing mobile phone penetration and use, and advancements in mobile technologies offer new opportunities to support the disaster risk management (DRM) in emerging economies.

However, mobile phone technologies are not a universal panacea; we need to learn and adapt our approaches to enable us to make the most of technologies in an appropriate and inclusive way.

The Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience (SHEAR) program supports cutting-edge research to improve the quality, availability and use of risk and forecast information. Researchers and practitioners work with stakeholders to co-produce demand-driven, people-centered science and solutions to improve risk assessment, preparedness, early action and resilience to natural hazards.

In October 2020, SHEAR hosted a virtual workshop that explored the use of mobile technologies to support DRM. The workshop brought together around 45 members from 20 organizations through the SHEAR program and a selection of external experts to share and record their experiences.

Participants included physical and social scientists, public and private researchers, technology developers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and federal, local and intergovernmental officials.

The educational and professional backgrounds of these workers were very varied and included: scientific experts involved in experimenting with new technologies; experts working more closely with communities in developing countries over long periods of time; those involved in the short-term distribution of emergency aid; non-professional participants (“citizen scientists”) in initiatives at Community level; and experts in data visualization and risk communication.

The breadth and depth of the expertise and experience of the workshop participants made it possible to bring together key lessons and examine common challenges and opportunities where mobile technologies could be usefully harnessed at different stages of the cycle. life of DRMs and in different regions.

This publication summarizes the main lessons of the workshop: how mobile phone technologies are used in CRM, and opportunities and lessons for applied research.

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