Dinner with Disaster and Technology

It was billed as a Social Media Night for Disaster Preparedness. The place was one of those restaurants at Ayala Triangle and present were the people behind the Department of Science and Technology Project NOAH ( National Operational Assessment of Hazards and Risks (NOAH) ; PLDT mbile subsidiaries Smart Communications Inc and Digitel Mobile Philippines Inc (the owner of Sun Cellular) ; and Get Ready Pinas. And topics discussed during the dinner included but were not limited to the following:

First, Project NOAH – its website and its social media efforts. As well as the efforts of DOST to use social media as a channel of communication.

Second, DOST itself revealed that it was also going to install automated water level sensors in key river systems. Also in conjunction with this, DOST has signed a memorandum with Smart and Digitel to co-locate 500 automated rain gauges (ARGs)in strategically cellsites along major river systems. In past agreements Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) installed 63 automated raig gauges in 63 Smart Cell sites. As a whole or all these things put together – the automated water level sensors, the ARGS, Project Noah and other emergent digital technologies ( primarily openware and perhaps cloud-based technologies) – the DOST aims to do (i) flood forecasting; (ii)predict imapact of flooding on the communities along the 18 key river system; and provide a website that will provide information for government and citizens to prepare for floods.

Third, Another interesting project talked about that dinner was a disaster preparedness program Smart had with the Philippines Business for Social Progress (PBSP)using sms/text based alert system.

The bulk of night was taken up by the presentation about Project NOAH, which was done by Project Lead Mahar Lagmay of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS).

Judging by the flow of discussion. Project NOAH is a useful online knowledge and information tool for flood management. Some thoughts and feedback:

First, It is good that we have such an online tool available. Although, It still needs to improve on certain things in term of usability so that it would be easier to navigate through.

Second, Project NOAH should have a sister site that would handle the education side of disaster management. This could be under the DOST. In effect this would make the science of disaster preparedness – which includes but not limited to meteorology and geology – be made more understandable.

Third, It is great the Project and its parent the DOST have undertaken this project with a social media component. Although it might be better to trickle down the knowledge and information to a greater number of people by having the different media groups use it or better yet to expand for telcos to adapt and SMS/text alert system for their whole network. It is important to remember that the Internet penetration in the country is still at 35% and the service needs to extend to the rest of the population.

Fourth, This is more of a hope and suggestion, the DOST expand this alert and preparedness service to encompass all other natural disasters from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions.

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