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Free internet seen to save lives during disasters

A private think tank asked the government to accelerate the expansion of free internet networks to help save more lives during disasters.

“The extensive connectivity that has been provided by mobile telecommunications services and social media has greatly prevented casualties in disasters such as the recent string of strong typhoons that have ravaged the country,” Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit, president of Stratbase ADRi, said in a statement,

“Accelerating the expansion of mobile communication networks in our country are a key component of our disaster readiness framework. Free access to alert systems and communications channels, both through mobile networks and social media, provide invaluable means of communication to coordinate disaster relief, issue calls for assistance, monitor rescue operations, and ensure that all are made aware of incoming hazards.”

“As almost every household has a mobile phone, it is crucial that there is both government and private sector investment in strengthening and expanding the country’s digital infrastructure. This would give a strategic advantage in addressing the risks brought by the frequent natural calamities the country faces,” Manhit said.

Typhoon Ulysses has a current death toll of 67 (NDRRMC). Ondoy in 2009 claimed 277 lives (NDCC, 2009). Typhoon Frank had an official death toll of 557 (NDCC, 2008). Typhoon Reming of 2006 had 1,266 fatalities (NDCC, 2006). Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 claimed over 6,000 lives (NDRRMC, 2013).

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council sends text-message emergency alerts in coordination with PLDT Smart and Globe as well as advisories over its Facebook page.

Globe has deployed 22 Dyip Sagip: Libreng Tawag, Libreng Charging and Libreng Wifi in typhoon-hit areas and committed to install more as needed. Globe also conducted relief efforts in partnership with Ayala Foundation. The Ayala Group has also distributed over 5,000 relief packs for 25,000 individuals in affected areas.

Smart Communications gave free load to affected customers in Isabela and Cagayan as well as free calling and charging stations in typhoon hit areas in Luzon.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology thru its free WIFI project provided free internet connectivity and charging facilities to areas directly hit by the recent typhoons.

Consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines convenor Orlando Oxales said: “As the Philippines continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, Filipinos continue to face the risks brought about both by the virus and its economic impacts.  E-commerce and digital services have been vital in ensuring that families are able to sustain themselves and earn a living despite pandemic restrictions. There must be continuous cooperation between the private sector and the government to ensure that Filipinos have access to power and connectivity services,” Oxales said.

Topics: Free internet , Stratbase ADRi , Globe , Smart , disasters , telecom
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