|Home > News||1 November 2007|
The Long Last Mile premiered in Dhaka
TVEAP's latest film profiles community based disaster warning system
It was screened during a national workshop entitled “Sharing Knowledge on Disaster Warning: Community-Based Last-Mile Warning Systems” held at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) through its Bangladesh Network Office for Urban Safety (BNUS).
The video film captured the highlights of the process and findings of a path-finding action research, the Evaluating Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination (HazInfo) Project in Sri Lanka.
This multi-partner initiative brought together 10 civil society and telecom/ICT companies to assess the best combination of communication technology, training and community preparedness to share authentic hazard warnings.
TVE Asia Pacific was a partner in this project, which ran from January 2006 to July 2007. It was led by Sri Lanka’s largest development organisation Sarvodaya, and leading regional ICT research group LIRNEasia, and Sri Lanka’s largest telecommunications company, Dialog Telekom.
"The video was an excellent addition to the Dhaka workshop," reports Natasha Udu-gama, HazInfo Project Dissemination Manager of LIRNEasia. "It really did enhance the knowledge gained by the audience on the HazInfo project.
She adds: "In the upcoming workshop in Delhi, we will be commencing with the video since it gives an appropriate level of background before getting into all the details of the project.
The video starts with recollections of the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 – which arrived without any public warning and killed a quarter of a million people across South and Southeast Asia.
"A great number of these lives could have been saved -- if only they received an early warning," the film notes. "The news of the oncoming disaster reached the centres of power soon enough. But the systems were simply not in place to get the word across to people directly at risk."
The narration adds: "But knowing about an impending disaster is one thing. Warning everyone at risk quickly and effectively is quite another. Going that 'last mile' is a big challenge."
The film quotes Dr. Rohan Samarajiva, Executive Director of LIRNEasia, as saying: "The critically important things we have to understand is that with rapid onset hazards, its extremely important that….the people who are affected…are prepared to respond and that they respond appropriately."
The rest of the film describes how a community-based system was tried out in 32 pilot villages along the western, southern, eastern and northern coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Working through Sarvodaya's country-wide network of autonomous village development societies, it tested the relevance and efficacy of five different information and communication technologies, or ICTs: VSAT terminals; wireless fixed phones; Java-enabled mobile phones customised to carry text alerts in English, Sinhala and Tamil; a Remote Alarm Device designed by Dialog Telekom, and Addressable Radios for Emergency Alerts (AREA) designed by satellite operator WorldSpace Corporation.
Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Executive Director of Sarvodaya, says on the film: "Basically the technologies were tested…and we were able to identify at a community setting what are the technologies that were working in a given situation of warning of a natural hazard."
He adds: "And we (also) learned there are so many social elements. One is the way the community behave in a situation when a Hazard alert is given. And also the collective behaviour of the community and the knowledge that they had before the event is so vital."
The film will be an integral part of LIRNEasia's dissemination of the project findings across South and Southeast Asia. The next workshop will be held in partnership with the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, India on 19 November 2007. The third regional workshop is proposed to be held in Indonesia in January 2008.
The findings will also be showcased through a session at the Global Knowledge 3 Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 11 to 13 December 2007.
The HazInfo project was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.