SIDS roundtable: Death, disaster & the internet

8 Dec 2016 13:00h - 14:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

The roundtable brought together activists and experts from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), who shared and discussed examples and good practice solutions to the question on how to change or improve wireless technologies and the overall Internet infrastructures to mitigate infrastructure failure, prevent the human lost and reduce financial costs in case of natural disasters.

The session organiser, Mr Tracy Hackshaw, Vice Chair, Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter, opened the round table by stating that while information and communication technologies (ICTs) and Internet networks are affected, they are important in times of natural disasters. ICTs provide search and rescue tools.


Prof Patrick Hosein, Professor, Computer Science and Chair, Multistakeholder Advisory Group of Trinidad & Tobago

Ms Maureen Hilyard, National Environment Service, Dot.ASIA, Telecommunications Advisory Committee

Ms Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro, South Pacific Computer Society, Pasifika Nexus Limited

Mr Carlton Samuels, ICT4D Consultant at Carlton Samuels & Associates

Mr Bevil Wooding, Chief Knowledge Officer, Congress WBN and Internet Strategist at Packet Clearing House

An example was given of the important role that ICTs in general, and radio communications in particular, played in getting information circulate during the Haiti devastation. Radio was used as a means to broadcast information about natural disasters coming in to the rural areas. Most of the mobile infrastructure was damaged and radio was crucial for communication at the time of the disaster. Samuels explained that it took longer for the areas which depended on public power sources to receive help. Cities which managed to run diesel generators were able to get useful information the day after the disaster.

The lack of disability disaggregated data was a challenge raised by the audience. It was said that this would help the timely evacuation of inaccessible venues. Recommendations were made to make the information on warnings available for people with disabilities. A good practice example mentioned was The Pacific Disability Forum, which worked with five Pacific Islands to set up a disability inclusive disaster response service.

In Haiti, an entrepreneurial solar trailer system was set up giving people the power to charge their cellphones, which was crucial at the time of the disaster.

In Tonga, one of the main objectives of the government is to improve the early warning systems. So far, massive alerts through SMSs are being sent, and it takes about 20 minutes to get the message across. Now they are looking into sending the alarm using the fm frequency.

It was stated that power and technology had played a crucial role in time of disaster. Collaboration in sharing ideas and technology tools among discovery disaster centres is also crucial. Facebook is used as medium to share warning information, which is often the only way to get the message across before the disaster happens.

References were made to the IGF Dynamic Coalition on climate change, and the recommendations it made with regard to the need for more efforts in addressing climate change challenges, in a multistakeholder approach.

Dr Teresa Horejsova, DiploFoundation, stated that the mission of her organisation is to help small and developing countries participate more efficiently in the global policy process. She mentioned the CD Pacific capacity development project implemented two years ago. A new spin of the project, CD Multi – that includes the Caribbean – has travel funds currently available for the Pacific Islands to come and attend sessions of interest at the meetings happening in Geneva at the UN.

Documents signed by various countries such as the Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific were highlighted during the discussions.

One of the recommendations made was to have an ‘all across accessible one-stop-shop’ for best practices and innovation, which could be run by an organisation such as DiploFoundation, supported by an IGF Dynamic Coalition. Moreover, the multistakeholder approach to networking and advocacy efforts was stressed on.

It was stated that there are still challenges related to the effective deployment of the Internet and Internet-based technology on small islands. However, it is important to speed up efforts to deploy such technologies, as they are important as tools for collaboration and experience sharing.

It was concluded that the management and mitigation of climate change and disaster was not only an issue of making use of technologies, but also a question of incorporating institutional, inherent, traditional and cultural practices as the way towards more effective mechanisms.

‘This is not responsibility, this is our humanity – to sustain tomorrow’s generation.’ Was said by one participant as a final remark.

by Aida Mahmutović