Imagine a hurricane bearing down on an isolated village. This storm will obliterate everything in its path: homes, roads, power lines, and communication capabilities. Worst of all, many villagers will be injured or killed.
After the storm, survivors are
cut off from the world, unable to communicate with emergency service providers. As disaster relief organizations scramble to understand the situation on the ground, desperate needs for emergency food, shelter,
and medical care go unmet.
What if it didn't have to be that way? Instead, what if technology could prevent some of the destruction and improve aid delivery after a disaster?
A new report called Technology for Good: Innovative Use of
Technology by Charities identifies ten technologies that are already
having this kind of impact in the world. The projects in Technology for Good aren't just limited to disaster and crisis response.
The report also highlights the deep impact of technology in a wide range of other issue areas, from agriculture
to education to the environment.
with the Guardian, TechSoup created the Technology
for Good report as a valuable repository of inspiration for the public and
private sectors, funders, and other change makers who want to support
technology for social good.
Relatively new technologies in the report include
GPS tracking, mapping, crowdsourcing, cloud technology, portable networks, and
briefly introduces each technology and provides examples of how those
technologies are being used.
The biggest surprises? The possibility that drone
technology – unmanned aerial crafts that have a troubling association to surveillance
and war – can also be used for good, for example delivering aid to otherwise inaccessible areas. Likewise,
the existence of a portable communication network that fits in three suitcases
and can provide phone and SMS service coverage across a full 1 kilometer area.
The report also
includes examples of using tried and true technologies such as mobile
technology, radio, and television with an interesting twist. For example, basic SMS
and telephone messaging are being used to educate students in remote areas of
Pakistan, to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, and to raise funds
for East African drought relief.
Our hypothetical storm could have a very different
outcome if the right technologies were used.
Before the hurricane hit, residents could receive location-targeted SMS messages directing them to evacuate. Because of this advance warning, fewer lives might be lost and fewer injuries would occur. Emergency responders could set up a
portable communications network, so the remaining needs would be identified and quickly met. After the immediate crisis, GPS and mapping technology could provide actionable data, laying the foundation to
technologies (and many more!) already exist and are helping create positive social change
around the globe. Download
the report. Get inspired. See how your organization can use technology to
change the world!
In the coming months, we'll dive deeper into the technologies
presented in the report, sharing best practices and lessons learned in detail.
piece in this series, covering recent innovations in crisis mapping, was
published in the Guardian.
Learn more about the technologies in the report:
Image: Sonny M. Day
by Ariel Gilbert-Knight, Director, Content, TechSoup
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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