Mobile for Development | Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:04:54 +0000

Last week in London, Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, gave a talk on her new book “The Resilience Dividend.” In it, she presents a framework to help focus our efforts to be better prepared, to better respond and to better withstand shocks, and perhaps to even bounce back better than pre-disaster levels.

Resilient Characteristics

The Rockefeller Foundation defines resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stress and shocks, and even transform when conditions require it.” The Foundation has launched a number of initiatives, including the 100 Resilient Cities Campaign to improve how citizens, governments and organisations meet the challenges of a dynamic, interconnected and sometimes, unpredictable environment. Accordingly, the characteristics that contribute to resilience are 1) awareness, 2) diversity, 3) integration, 4) self-regulation and 5) adaptation.  Importantly, Dr Rodin suggests that although building capacities in these areas, and that practicing or building them may seem like a “tax” because of potential economic and time costs, it should actually be viewed as an investment for the future, likely to bring value through new capacities, swifter recovery and revitalisation.

There are many relevant and complementary points in the book to the work we do in the GSMA Disaster Response team, as well as to the business continuity, crisis management and corporate sustainability/responsibility activities of our Mobile Network Operator members. Awareness of risks and potential disruptions is essential to ensure continuity of the mobile network in times of interruption, and the ability to assess and re-adjust network management plans, such as in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, are critical to an MNO’s ability to cope. Diversity is an important concept for our industry as well, not only from the perspective of having back-up and redundancy planning, but also in having a mix of teams, skills and external partners which bring different assets to face a challenge. Turkcell’s business continuity management programme is a great example of drawing these elements together.

Integration is key as it recognising the various “systems” in play and the overarching need to coordinate them. We view this as an important requirement for the mobile community and adjacent sectors, as well as for humanitarian actors and government agencies. AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery Team highlights how contingency planning and coordination across systems, with clear leadership is essential to building resilience.

Self-regulation is important for our industry too. There are a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging simulations, internal assessments and abiding by standards and best practice to ensure that we are as prepared as possible if things go wrong. Developing a community of practice that can support and regulate each member to ensure these best practices are adopted will be critical to ensuring mobile networks are organisations are able to meet the challenges ahead.

Adaptability as key

Finally, the ability to adapt and change course is essential. In reflecting on plans for the upcoming typhoon season following from the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan, a colleague in the Philippines commented that now “we must prepare for the new normal.” Threats and risks may change across time and space, and the ability to plan for any contingency would be impossible. However, empowering staff, rehearsing scenarios, adopting best practice, developing comprehensive BCM and coordination plans and having a diversity of partners means that if and when disaster strikes, the right decisions can be made more quickly.

In a world where the impacts of climate change, urbanisation, and humanitarian emergencies seem to be on the rise, investing in resilience is not only common sense, but it makes business sense as well.