SMS to save lives in storms

2014-03-25 13:03
An early-warning SMS system could soon be in place to broadcast alerts to all users at risk from natural disasters such as flooding or hurricanes. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

An early-warning SMS system could soon be in place to broadcast alerts to all users at risk from natural disasters such as flooding or hurricanes. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Johannesburg - Text messaging may be dying out as a means of communication in many parts of the developed world, but it may yet prove to be a vital life-saver in flood-prone African villages.

An early-warning system that aims to capitalise on the explosive growth of mobile phone penetration in Africa could soon be in place to broadcast alerts to all users at risk from natural disasters such as flooding or hurricanes.

Millions of people in Africa have only limited access to television, radio or internet but mobile phone ownership has grown exponentially, even in poor remote villages at risk from floods.

Now Spain's Nvia, a mobile phone company, has developed the Gooard project, a technology based on geo-targeted alerts that sends text messages to a specific geographical area.

A network of satellites and weather stations will detect the threat and send a text to villagers within 15 minutes, hopefully allowing time for evacuation.

Mobile phone penetration

"The technology is able to identify all the active cellphones in a certain area, such as a shopping mall, a village, or a park, and send messages straight to the terminal without any previous subscription," said Alberto Perez, Nvia's Africa manager.

"With the same system, we can also send vital information to people about natural disasters that can save their lives and minimise damages".

The technology is already in use in other parts of the world for promotional purposes - bombarding consumers in a specific shopping mall with a special offer for example.

And even in remote Africa, mobile phone communications can reach the parts other systems can't reach.

The International Communications Union (ITU) estimates that mobile phone penetration has risen to around 63% on the continent - and much higher in South Africa.

"In Africa, especially in poor settlements, the population has limited access to Internet, radio or television, but everybody has a mobile phone. That's why the platform can be so useful in the continent," said Perez.

After years of research, the scheme is already fully operational in Europe and is expected to be rolled out in Kenya by the end of the year.

It is expected to work in partnership with local mobile networks such as Airtel, Vodafone, Orange, MTN and Cell C.

Weather damage

Perez pledged that the service would be free for the population but declined to comment on how much it could cost for governments or how it would be sponsored.

"It is an expensive service, but governments know that it can be vital for its population, and it can also save a lot of money in emergency relief," he said.

The South Africa's environmental affairs department and the national secret services agency have shown interest in the project, and Nvia is preparing to formally showcase it to government, added Perez.

Heavy rains killed 32 people in SA in the first two weeks of March, in record downpours that weather experts say were the worst in more than a decade.

Natural disasters in Africa accounted for just less than a third of worldwide victims, with around 38 million people affected in 2012, according to the Catholic University of Louvain's last Annual Disaster Statistical Review.

Natural disasters in Africa caused some $803m in damage, the Belgian university estimated.
Read more on:    mobile  |  weather
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

• Cultivate your intuitive powers – intuition and insight are emphasized today. The focus is still on organisation and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.