I attended the Social Media and Disaster Relief Conference organized by the Indian arm of the Center for Strategic and International Studies hoping to learn something. The existence of the Emergency Telecom Cluster was one new thing I learned about. This is a specialized cluster associated with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee which seeks to coordinate the humanitarian activities of UN and non-UN agencies in the humanitarian space. One of the things it does is ensure that emergency equipment such as VSATs are moved into disaster-hit locations quickly from the Dubai Humanitarian Warehouse. Various industry partners engage in continuous capacity building activities and maintain registries of human and other resources to enable quick mobilization.
Nuwan Waidyanatha, the Project Manager of the Last-mile HazInfo Project, has been invited to speak on the findings of the project at an important regional event attended by a host of dignitaries including the Director of ITU-D, Mr Sami Al-Basheer, the seniormost official dealing with disaster issues in the UN system, Sir David Veness, and Mr Cherif Ghaly, the chair of the UN Working Group on Emergency Telecom. Draft program is here. Nuwan will speak on the lessons of the on-the-ground technology evaluations conducted by LIRNEasia and Sarvodaya in a majority of the tsunami-affected districts of the island, reported at the workshop in March. It is a significant recognition that a speaker from an organzation that has existed only for 2.5 years has been invited to a major disaster telecom event outside the Asia-Pacific region.