In developing countries such as Sri Lanka, when government has no resources to deliver the essential public good of early warnings, alternate methods must be advocated – that was the idea of the HazInfo research project, where civil society in villages were given training to respond appropriately to alerts received from the Hazard Information Hub located at the Sarvodaya Head Office in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.
The technology and organizational structure of the HazInfo last-mile hazard warning system proved to work as designed and drew valuable lessons for a full scale implementation. However, the major dilemma was in finding resources to sustain the system. The Hoteliers’ Association of Sri Lanka agreed to obtain services from Sarvodaya for a fee to train and certify the hotel staff in disaster response. This fee would go towards the OPEX of the HazInfo emergency response planning component and operationalize a 24/7/365 Hazard Information Hub for issuing alerts; but to kick start the endeavor a nominal CAPEX is required.
The paper titled – Mobile Phones and the challenges of sustainable early warning systems: reflection on Hazinfo Sri Lanka and opportunities for future research coauthored by Gordon Gow (University of Alberta) and myself (Nuwan Waidyanatha) addressing the correlation between investment and preparedness in relation to the HazInfo as well as the possibility of leveraging mobile telephony for building socially sustainable and community driven last mile warning systems was presented at the Mobile Communication and Social Policy Conference hosted by the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. Event took place in New Brunswick, USA 9 – 11 October 2009.