Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides, forest fires: a spate of disasters in recent times has spelt havoc around the world, profoundly impacting its victims, their environment and their livelihoods – and driving a need for emergency telecommunications networks.
Access to information and communication facilities is essential for providing vital early-warning information as well as quick response for humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation in the aftermath of disasters.
Aiming to strengthen international cooperation in the use of information and communication technology for disaster mitigation, a conference in Egypt, that ended yesterday, brought together nearly 400 participants including senior government and telecommunication regulatory officials, United Nations Agencies, NGOs, academics and the private sector.
Speaking at the opening session, Sami Al-Basheer, director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau noted that emergency telecommunication is a key priority for ITU.
"Any disaster reduction measure that is not linked to telecommunications does not go far enough. For this reason, a ubiquitous, resilient, and multi-hazard telecommunications network is critical."
The meeting provided a platform for best practices in disseminating vital information on disaster management, environmental monitoring, and delivery of ICT applications and services such as e-health for the benefit of disaster victims.
Future objectives aim at:
* Identifying appropriate technologies and options for disaster communications;
* Enhancing institutional and human capacity;
* Conducting drills and simulations for telecommunications applications in disaster management;
* Preparing case studies to draw lessons and facilitate exchange among countries;
* Establishing appropriate regulatory and legal frameworks for ratification and implementation of the Tampere Convention.
The conference in Egypt follows the Bandung Declaration of 28 March 2007 that calls upon ITU to launch a global project to develop ICT resources that can be deployed in a timely manner anywhere in the world in the event of a disaster. It seeks to build on the goals set by the World Summit on the Information Society, the resolutions and programmes adopted by ITU's World Telecommunication Development Conference in Doha in March 2006, and the resolutions adopted by the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Antalya, Turkey in November 2006.
As part of its ongoing effort to promote international cooperation and multi-stakeholder partnerships, ITU concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on 11 April 2007 with Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), a non-governmental organisation, to open the door to greater coordination of efforts in this area.