Mobile for Development | Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:50:35 +0000

Responding to regional challenges in MENA; Mobile solutions and partnerships.

This week the Disaster Response programme holds its first working group in the MENA region. Mobile communication and information play an important role in any humanitarian crisis, be they a result of natural disaster or conflict.

Numerous groups, including the GSMA Disaster Response programme take the view that “Communication is Aid” (follow #Commisaid on twitter). If recognising this is one thing, how do we then go about providing this type of aid?

Following food and water, mobile charging facilities were the third most requested form of assistance requested by Yazidis refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar, northern Iraq as reported by those in the field. As a result of this identified need, solar powered lanterns with mobile charging were included in humanitarian aid drops and refocused discussions on how technology is having an impact on aid. A recent inter-agency rapid assessment report has highlighted the emphasis put on current informational needs; ‘Our needs are not only food and water, we want to know about our future’.

We’ve also seen examples of the power of communication as the platform for lifesaving tools. The School Alerts system (detailed in this Life Story) and similarly the Blood Drives platform (detailed here) developed by SoukTel both act as examples of innovative uses of mobile communication, sharing the right information at the right time in an attempt to create the best outcomes. SoukTel recently partnered with InterNews to link families with aid, via mobile and radio.

We’ve also witnessed further examples of the role that technology and social media can take in conflict, providing insights into the crisis as well as enabling a large scale spread of propaganda between Israel and Palestine.

Mobile operators have also shown leadership outside of their areas of expertise, providing various forms of assistance to affected populations, acting as humanitarian actors in their own right. As well as mobile orientated assistance, for example the 15 minutes free of charge for all its customers to call their relatives and loved ones in Palestine over Jawwal and Paltel networks, operators have also provided assistance in the more traditional forms of aid; Zain dispatches first convoy of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

With numerous challenges facing both mobile network operators and humanitarian organisations, the workshop this week will ​provide ​a ​platform ​for ​Mobile ​Network ​Operators ​and ​members ​of ​the ​mobile ​industry ​to ​come ​together ​to ​discuss ​common regional risks and ​challenges associated with disaster and humanitarian crises. Open discussion between the mobile industry, NGOs and humanitarian organisations will explore the ways in which effective partnerships and collaboration can form part of mobile solutions, matching requirements and priorities with technical advice and capabilities.

An executive summary of the event will be available shortly. Please email oparsons@gsma.com if you are interested in receiving a copy, or information about the global working group series.