GSMA reinforces use of mobile tech in response to emergencies

Mobile Network
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have committed to a set of shared principles in the spirit of supporting and enhancing humanitarian connectivity. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Mobile networks and the internet connectivity are increasingly playing a central role in the response to natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies as well as in provision of general support.

Mobile networks are now being used to facilitate access to information critical in coordinating assistance with government, NGOs and the international humanitarian community before, during and after disasters.

In fact, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have committed to a set of shared principles in the spirit of supporting and enhancing humanitarian connectivity.

“The Mobile Industry can use its scale and reach positively to contribute to preparedness during disaster situations and to support the humanitarian response afterwards,” said Gerald Rasugu, Mobile for Development Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at the GSMA.

“The opportunity to help is global. Our industry has prompted the increased awareness of vulnerabilities around disaster situations. The industry can foster a stronger global citizenship and engagement around disaster awareness and relief possibilities.”

UNHCR latest report has shown that registered refugee and asylum seekers in Kenya stands at 468,910. Kakuma refugee camp alone hosts 186,088 representing 40 per cent, Dadaab 208,616 (44), and Nairobi and other urban areas 74,206 (16). Many of these refugees rely on mobile money remittance from family and friends abroad and to communicate. The mobile penetration in refugee camps such a Kakuma is offering new opportunities for digital humanitarian assistance. For example, Safaricom has partnered with UNCHR and The World Food Programme to help improve humanitarian effectiveness through the ‘Chakula Chap-Chap’ initiative, which translates to ‘food delivered promptly’. This project enables refugees to access food through their M-Pesa wallet which can only be used to purchase food.

The Charter, Mr Rasugu says, presents an opportunity to showcase the collaborative commitment of MNOs to their customers, communities, government and the international community through the humanitarian benefits of this charter.

“Through pursuing the principles of the charter, signatories will work towards creating accessible and resilient connectivity for mobile subscribers and communities affected by disaster situations and establishing before, during and after a disaster best practice standards for the mobile industry,” says Mr Rasugu.

The charter further urges for “reliable information sharing that will benefit communities, humanitarian responders and the mobile eco-system and an ability to maintain focus on business continuity and revenue protection during a disaster, enabling the delivery of critical services to impacted communities and responding agencies.”

Mr Rasungu adds that the charter also calls for improved leveraging of MNO core assets, competencies and relationships with external partners to deliver humanitarian communication activities and greater visibility of the unique role of mobile communication and the mobile industry in supporting disaster and humanitarian response.