Recent crises have demonstrated the increasingly important role mobile technology plays during disasters. Oddvar Hesjedal took part in a session at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012, where he highlighted some of the disasters Telenor Group has experienced lately and lessons learnt.
The Disaster Response Programme is a new programme by the GSMA Development Fund which was launched with an inaugural working group at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on Monday, 27 February. The programme seeks to understand how mobile operators can most effectively support each other and improve resilience among networks in disaster scenarios, and identify how the mobile industry can best help citizens and humanitarian organisations on the ground following a crisis.
Ensuring network operability and reliability is crucial
In company of representatives from Vodafone, Telstra, NTT Docomo, Ericsson and the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Oddvar Hesjedal, Executive Vice President and Head of Group People Development highlighted the most important lessons Telenor Group with its mobile operations in 11 countries have learnt from recent natural disasters.
Hesjedal emphasised the importance of the following three areas: network availability, information access and crisis cooperation, and he made specific references to experiences in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Montenegro.
SMS and voice can provide essential information
“In many countries mobile coverage is way better than other lines of communication. A mobile is something people keep with them wherever they go. Thus, through their devices people are – in theory – accessible 24/7. In case of a disaster, timing is of essence. People need to get the right information at the right time and SMS and voice recordings can provide essential info on e.g. where shelters are,” says Hesjedal.
Preparations and contingency plans
He also drove home the importance of network preparedness such as having equipment that withstands disasters in place, as well as routines for crisis management. Which all of the mobile operations in Telenor Group have. Similarly, cooperation with governments to have system in place for bringing information to the public is crucial.
Grameenphone and Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) of Bangladesh entered into an agreement in 2009 that during a disaster like a cyclone, flood or other natural calamity, an early disaster alert will be generated by DMB and disseminated to the people of disaster prone areas using Grameenphone platform and network. This cooperation is now being further developed.
Summing up, Hesjedal concludes that network availability and crisis management are highly prioritised in all Telenor companies. “Information access requires long term relationships with regulators and other authorities and should be developed as part of a crisis-cooperation in each country.” He welcomed the initiative from GSMA in this matter. “The programme will facilitate a meeting place for operators, humanitarian organisations and authorities thus making best practice available to all operators.”