The IT industry is making strides in coming to the rescue when disaster strikes.
The Global Forum on 'Effective Use of Telecommunications/ICT for Disaster Management: Saving Lives' closed yesterday, having launched two important initiatives, the ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies and the ITU Network of Volunteers for Emergency Telecommunications. Two new publications on emergency telecommunications were also issued.
The ITU Secretary-General also established a High-Level Panel for Emergency Telecommunications.
Several partnerships forged with industry were also announced. These partnerships bring to ITU both equipment and funds to be used to finance telecommunications/ICT solutions in all phases of disaster management, including early-warning and response.
The Global Forum was held in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2007 and attracted representatives of 174 governments, some at Ministerial level; 18 international organisations; 18 private sector entities including some CEOs; and 53 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Participants gathered to map out concrete strategies and adopt practical measures aimed at giving telecommunications/ICT a central role in all phases of disaster management early warning, preparedness, relief and response, and rehabilitation of telecommunication networks.
"We have seen through first-hand experience the power and potential of telecommunications to save lives in times of disaster," notes Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. "I was pleased to meet so many dedicated men and women during this Forum who are united in the common belief that much more can and must be done."
The ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies (IFCE), formally launched at the Forum, is designed to make telecommunications/ICT resources available for use by government agencies responsible for disaster relief, humanitarian personnel as well as victims of disasters through its technology, finance, and logistics clusters seeking to ensure that reliable, easily transportable and technology-neutral systems are deployed in a timely manner whenever and wherever disasters may occur.
The IFCE is an integral part of ITU's other activities undertaken at all phases of disaster management, such as disaster preparedness, early warning, and rehabilitation of telecommunications networks.
The ITU Network of Volunteers for Emergency Telecommunications (VET) is intended to mobilize volunteers with technical expertise who will participate in the deployment of telecommunication/ICT resources and services in the immediate aftermath of disasters.
ITU will create a database of such experts as part of disaster preparedness. These volunteers could be drawn from but not limited to retired specialists from ITU Member States, ITU Sector Members, and retired staff of the ITU Secretariat.
A number of partnerships were also formalised between ITU and its partners, including several agreements with different global satellite service providers, including Iridium, VIZADA and ICO Global, to donate equipment and satellite airtime to support first responders in the case of disasters. Additional agreements were signed with other partners, covering areas such as training and capacity-building. Financial contributions were also announced to support activities launched at the Global Forum, including support from TerreStar and ICO Global.