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Messages include information from how to prevent, identify, and treat cholera to hurricane warnings and preparedness. The TERA program has also been used to support government-led vaccination campaigns as well as sharing first aid, HIV/AIDS prevention, and sexual health information.15 Since each SMS message is limited to 140 characters, the information provided by one text message is limited. In May 2012, the Red Cross launched the Telefon Kwa Wouj IVR system where callers can dial 733 to access free, detailed information both anonymously and from the privacy of their home. Since including the 733 number, calls to the Telefon Kwa Wouj system have increased eightfold, averaging 4,000 to 5,000 calls per day, and will soon reach its millionth call. The most popular information is on sexual health, accessed nearly 16,000 times per month on average, followed by cholera and disaster preparedness.16 The SMS service also allows the Red Cross to conduct simple surveys to determine what information may be missing on their Telefon Kwa Wouj system. With quizzes on topics like violence prevention and HIV/AIDS, the Red Cross can note what users get right and wrong and determine where there are information gaps.17 For the Red Cross, the effectiveness of the TERA system was twofold. First, the mobile phone usage in places they operated was very high. In Haiti, for example, cellphone usage is 90 percent.
In 2007, Safaricom developed a money transfer service allowing users to transfer money, keep an electronic wallet, withdraw cash, and make payments, all without a bank account.
Since many in Kenya simply do not have a bank account or find it impractical to travel to financial institutions to make such transactions, mobile banking provides a necessary service for Kenyans to keep track of their earnings and store them safely.
14 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies, “TERA and Beneficiary Communication,” http://www.ifrc.org/en/what-wedo/beneficiary-communications/tera/ 15 Interview with Mark South, Beneficiary Communications Delegate, The Red Cross Haiti Earthquake Operation 16 Ibid.
19 GSMA, 31.
20 Economist, “Mobile money in Africa: Press 1 for modernity,” 28 April 2012, http://www.economist.com/node/21553510
Disaster Relief When the Red Cross received warnings about Hurricane Sandy in the winter of 2012, it immediately sent out text messages to all potentially affected areas in Haiti, using its SMSbased TERA program to reach out to disaster victims. The Red Cross continued to send a message every day for the next five days with related information. As the forecast became clearer, it could effectively craft specific messages for the areas that were going to be most affected, giving advice on how to get to higher ground, avoid dangerous storm surges, and after the storm had passed, staying away from fallen power lines.
After the storm, Red Cross teams went on the ground to assess the damage and discovered that for many, even within the more urbanized capital of Port-au-Prince, the only warning some had received about Hurricane Sandy was through their SMS. “It’s clear it’s a very good way to get information out to people who are not physically accessible,” explained Mark South.26 Mobile phone applications also played an important role in the U.S. during Hurricane Sandy. Microsoft developed a free mobile application called HelpBridge for Windows iOS and Android that enabled users to stay in touch with each other and donate aid money to disaster victims in Haiti and to those affected by Hurricane Sandy in the U.S.
HelpBridge was built to help with disaster preparedness as well as relief efforts, a two-inone feature that is not found in other disaster-related apps. “After Haiti and Japan, we saw a lot of technology pop up right after the event that helped people connect with each other and find ways to donate,” said James Rooney, program manager for Microsoft Citizenship’s Technology for Good. “But after the disaster, nobody maintained the technologies long term, so that when the next disaster happened, it would have to be recreated again and right away.
Working with some partners, we created a solution that wasn’t tied to a specific disaster so that the next time disaster struck, it would already be out there.”27 21 GSMA, 31.
22 The Economist, “Is it a phone, is it a bank?” 30 March 2013, http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21574520safaricom-widens-its-banking- services-payments-savings-and-loans-it 23 Ibid 24 Ibid 25 Ibid 26 Interview with Mark South 27 Interview with James Rooney, program manager for Microsoft Citizenship’s Technology for Good
Source: HelpBridge, http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/nonprofits/Helpbridge.aspx Campaigns and Fundraising Blackbaud, a company that provides fundraising products for not-for-profits, recently conducted research on fundraising among NGOs and came to the conclusion that mobile fundraising is one of the most efficient and cost-effective tools.28 Since approximately 98 percent of text messages are actually opened, charities can reach audiences they otherwise cannot with more traditional media campaigns. One fairly effective campaign run by Amnesty International in the U.K. read: “A man presses send at Paddington and a stoning is stopped in Iran.” The advert provided information on how to text to make an SMS donation. These text-based campaigns are effective because they are simple for both the charity and the potential donors.29 The success of text-based fundraising was effectively used for the East African drought, which hit in July 2011 and was one of its most severe droughts in six decades. Through SMS, Kenyans donated nearly US$200,000 in aid to drought victims.30 Behind successful fundraising campaigns, however, is financial transparency. Reliable data and the technology to deliver it is core to resolving issues of showing how charities operate on the ground. Some of these technological tools are discussed further in the report. Tracking technology can be used to document the progress of a project, allowing donors to see how their money has been used in real time. Data visualization allows donors to easily process and evaluate outcomes. Both are essential in keeping track of data and ensuring a project stays on target.
energy When you marry mobile phone technology with solar technology, you get mobile energy that can power homes for as cheaply as US$1 a week. IndieGo is “pay-as-you-go solar” — a bright-yellow box the size of an Internet router that users top up via a scratch card whenever they need more energy.
28 Robert McAllen, “Why charities need to make better use of messaging,” 27 February 2013, 160characters.org, http://160characters.org/ comment/guest-article-why-charities-need-to-make-better-use-of-messaging/ 29 GSMA, 31.
31 Ken Banks, “Pay as You Go Sunshine: How Mobile Phones are Powering the Developing World,” National Geographic, 17 April 2012, http:// newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/04/17/pay-as-you-go-sunshine-how-solar-energy-and-mobile-phones-are-powering-thedeveloping-world/
Disaster Response and Aid Delivery Mercy Corps has also extended the use of GPS to relief efforts. In November 2012 when violence erupted in Goma, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mercy Corps used the GPS to track population movements, provide humanitarian aid and prevent a cholera outbreak. The GPS was also used to coordinate response with partner agencies during the conflict and avoid overlap.32 Mercy Corps has also been piloting a program, using iPods with GPS units to collect monitoring and evaluation data for their Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program.
While the program is in its initial stages, Mercy Corps has so far managed to send out surveyors with the iPods to collect monitoring information. The pictures and GPS points are uploaded into a database that allows them to monitor, for example, the quality of latrines on the same day as data collection without having to send an entire team into the field. Through this system, it is much easier to identify the concentration of latrines to see where WASH programs are needed as well as to draw conclusions on the quality of the program itself.33 Since GPS units are relatively inexpensive at only a few hundred dollars per unit, GPS is a cost-effective tool. The only issue with GPS is that it does require a certain level of technical expertise and access to a computer that can deal with GPS mapping. While the iPod has more up-front costs, such as buying the tools, necessary licenses and training for program staff to design and implement data collection, it significantly reduces back-end costs like data entry and analysis.
Without the use of GPS, Mercy Corps would have needed to spend much more time plotting out locations during a very high-pressure period. It is possible they would have not been able to reach as many internally displaced people. Without the iPod and GPS combination, Mercy Corps could not gather data in real time, improve the speed in delivering services, and adapt to the realities in the field.
Similarly, the American Red Cross is now equipping its vehicles with GPS tracking devices so that it can better manage emergency services, such as communication and resource distribution. Managers can use GPS tracking on American Red Cross vehicles to ensure better response time for emergencies, and the safety of personnel on the road.
32 Mercy Corps, “Rushing aid to thousands displaced by recent fighting,” 30 November 2012, http://www.mercycorps.org.uk/press-room/ releases/rushing-aid-thousands-displaced-recent-fighting 33 Interview with Mercy Corps staff.
Financial Accountability In Afghanistan, USAID partnered with the charity Mercy Corps to ensure that its aid projects were being effectively delivered so that it could pay local wages. But in certain areas that are off-limits to civilian expats, mostly because conflict still rages or access is limited, ensuring accountability is very difficult.
John Stephens, who manages programs in Afghanistan for Mercy Corps, devised a creative solution with a GPS-enabled video camera.
When an area is off-limits to expats, Mercy Corps sends in local Afghan staff with GPS cameras to check that USAID supported projects are actually being implemented. The information from the cameras is then incorporated into an electronic map that can track the progress of USAID funded projects. Even for areas that are not off-limits, GPS cameras enable program managers to better do their jobs and provide simple, accurate documentation that the work is getting done.36 Remote operations In many places where the U.N. operates, like Somalia, high-intensity violence limits the ability of U.N. and international charity workers to move around the country safely with tools like Skype and GPS. Under the U.N. mandate, foreign workers must use an armed military convoy every time they leave specifically designated areas, known as International Zones. The military convoy prevents many humanitarian workers from effectively doing their work. To counteract this problem, the U.N. employs locals to act as intermediaries, entering zones that are off-limits to expats. These intermediaries receive training on how to execute a mission and how to collect valuable data.37 34 Greg Bartlett, “American Red Cross Uses GPS Tracking,” Rocky Mountain Tracking, 28 November 2009, http://www.rmtracking.com/ blog/2009/11/28/american-red-cross-uses-gps-tracking/ 35 Interview with Achala Navaratne, Red Cross Haiti Earthquake Operation.
36 Nathan Hodge, “Using GPS to Track Afghanistan Cash,” Wired, 25 February 2010, http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/usinglaptops-cameras-and-gps-to-track-afghanistan-cash/ 37 Bridget Guarasci, “PS Humanitarianism,” Slate, 28 September 2011, http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2011/09/ gps_humanitarianism.single.html
Disaster Relief Patrick Meier is one of the key innovators in the field of crisis mapping and was recently named a National Geographic emerging explorer. He was the director of crisis mapping at Ushahidi, an African startup that provides a free crisis-mapping platform. Meier says that the Haiti earthquake was the milestone event that first demonstrated the power and capabilities of crisis mapping. “That’s when we went from talking about crisis mapping to doing live, operational crisis mapping in the middle of the major disaster,” he explained.39 Before 2010, crisis mapping was a tedious, static process that played out on paper posters.
While it worked to an extent, the new crisis mapping allows for humanitarian workers to gain a situational awareness in real time.