Cellphones Aid Disaster Relief

By IINE Development Intern

A recent study published by the Public Library of Science suggests that the cell phone SIM cards of refugee populations on the move can be used by international aid organizations to more effectively serve those displaced by natural disasters. Using the Haitian exodus following the 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak as control groups, a team of five scientists determined the geographic distribution of population movements from Port-au-prince by tracking the position of 1.9 million SIMs 42 days before the earthquake to 158 days after.

Since nearly 60% of the developing world now has mobile network coverage and signal transmission reports can be relayed to relief coordinators in 12 hours or less, these findings have been hugely significant to the assistance efforts of UN and private agencies alike. While Dr. Linus Bengsston and his team concede that the efficacy of this method precipitates on tower density and extent of infrastructural damage, it still remains an important advancement from the expensive, slow, and unreliable techniques previously utilized by disaster-relief taskforces.

Photo used under Creative Common License, courtesy Bobbie Johnson.

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