Highlights from Disaster Response at Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress is once again behind us, and as the excitement of the numerous launches passes, the analysis of Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote continues, and most of the 85,000 of us that attended Congress leave Barcelona, we are able to reflect on some of the Disaster Response team highlights from the week.

Creating ‘What’s Next’ in Mobile for Development

The GSMA Mobile for Development Seminar, “Creating ‘What’s Next’ in Mobile for Development” was held bright and early on Monday morning. The session highlighted the convergence across M4D “verticals” and the challenge of bridging the gap between CSR and core business when developing proof-of-concept for new mobile solutions that have social and developmental objectives.

The session’s keynote was delivered by two Mobile Network Operators from the Philippines with whom our team has been working closely with over the past year. Ramon Isberto from  Smart Communications and Yolanda Cristanto from Globe Telecom painted a vivid picture of how Typhoon Haiyan impacted the Philippines landscape and people, and how their companies and local and international communities mobilized in response. Their reflections emphasized how local MNOs can be severely disrupted, not only from an equipment and infrastructure vantage, but also from the impact that disasters have on their employees and engineers, many of whom act as first responders as they work to restore connectivity.

Yet again, we were struck by the commitment and resilience of these companies and the extraordinary effort they made in getting their networks back up and running so that affected communities could reconnect. We will soon be publishing a case study detailing the partnerships, coordination strategies and lessons learned from the Typhoon Haiyan Response. The session also saw the premiere of a new Life Stories film that we created with Souktel, looking at how mobile is being used to support emergency preparedness in Palestine. We’re very excited to see the outputs of the research we did with Souktel come to life!

Disaster Response Seminar

We hosted a seminar on “Preparing for the Next Disaster” on Wednesday afternoon. We were extremely pleased with the session, which drew in a great mix of mobile operators, humanitarian organisations and other stakeholders committed to working towards a more effective and coordinated collective response to crises. The workshop featured engaged and lively debate, with participants reflecting on some of the lessons that emerged over the course of 2013 and the gaps that remain, ultimately reaching a consensus that the time has arrived to operationalize new frameworks and partnerships.

Rather than providing all of the answers, this session was intended to draw the various strands of experience and insight together, forming one stream of conversation that we will be working to continue through the coming year. If you’d like to receive the executive summary from the meetings, please get in touch.

Best Use of Mobile in Emergency or Humanitarian Situations

Smart Communications was recognised for their outstanding work in the Typhoon Haiyan response by the Global Mobile Awards judges, who selected the company as winner of the “Best Use of Mobile in Emergency or Humanitarian Situations” for their SafePh: Yolanda Response campaign. According to Smart, “for Super Typhoon Yolanda, mobile services play a crucial role in providing communications as relief and in longer term rehabilitation for the whole Central Philippines.” The judges commented that SafePh is “a response commended on many levels: preparedness, partnerships, and the rolling out of a whole portfolio of services aimed at improving communications access for the affected community in a rapid response fashion.”

Photo: Smart Communications present GSMA Director General, Anne Bouverot, and the Disaster Response team with custom jackets.

Smart also created a moving tribute video, thanking the GSMA and its members for supporting the Philippines response. The video can be viewed below.

New Case Studies Launched 

We also launched two case studies during Mobile World Congress: “Mobile Network Restoration & Humanitarian Response: The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network Vodafone Instant Network Programme” and “Reconnecting Refugees through Mobile: Refugees United’s partnerships and platform

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