Emergency telecommunications can save lives during humanitarian disasters

During the Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET-19), held in Balaclava, Mauritius, on 6-8 March 2019, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) investigated different tools and partnerships to better manage disasters and save lives through emergency telecommunications. To this aim, the ITU is assisting countries like Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu to develop national emergency telecommunication plans. On top of these tools are disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IoT), big data, robotics, and drone technology, which could enhance disaster risk reduction and management. In this vein, the ITU provided some recommendations to capitalise on disruptive technologies including: (a) systematising and standardising emergency technologies to make the benefits accessible to all, (b) establishing a global repository with information on how digital technologies are being applied for disaster management, (c) training to understand how to properly and responsibly deploy new and emerging digital technologies in crisis settings. In partnership with the Emergency Telecommunication Cluster (ETC), the ITU also kicked off the Disaster Connectivity Map Initiative which provides real-time connectivity information regarding type, level, and quality of connectivity in disasters. Such information can help identify the gaps and support better decision-making concerning the deployment of resources.