World Disaster Report - Southeast Asia Launch In Singapore

In this part of the world, the use of social media and technology is increasing at an exponential rate. Indonesia for example, is the third most active Twitter city globally, and people in the Philippines send an average of 2 billion texts a day.

At the same time there are many gaps in access to social media and new technologies in Southeast Asia, in countries such as Laos, or in rural parts of Cambodia and Thailand.

Singapore Red Cross is taking a lead to address the issue, what is also known as the “digital divide”. And as part of this commitment, today the Singapore Red Cross together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies hosted a regional launch of the World Disasters Report 2013 titled, “Focus on technology and the future of humanitarian action”.

Sponsored by Microsoft, the launch brought together a range of experts across Asia Pacific from the field of humanitarian action and technology. Based on their line of work and consensus from the report, panellists reinforced the need to invest in disaster risk reduction, while never ignoring the value in traditional means of communication. “Most of the population after the Great Japan Earthquake were reading newspapers for information,” explains Maya Arii, associate faculty for the Humanitarian Harvard Initiative and one of many contributors to the Report.

The discussion highlighted the reality that information is a form of aid today and as outlined in the WDR, technology may be the most important factor influencing humanitarian effectiveness over the next decade.

AT Ball from Microsoft and Victoria Leat from the Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC) added valuable insight on the value of partnership between all actors – government, private, public – to make things happen. “These are just tools we have,” emphasizes Victoria as she explains one system PDC launched in Indonesia called InAware. “Unless we partner to make that happen, it cannot benefit those who it should be serving”.

Ball displayed a photo from a group of villagers in Pakistan during the 2011 floods he met when arriving by helicopter to deliver aid when serving with the U.S. military. “These are the first responders we are talking about in the Report,” he stated. “We came in to sustain the support they are already giving to their community. Now how great would it be if those people had better access to technology to improve their resilience?”

Olivier Lacey-Hall, head of UN-OCHA for Asia Pacific, pushed the message further. “This report clearly highlights that disaster response is truly in the hands of communities”, he asked the audience, challenging them to question the ownership of technology and humanitarian response.
Each panellist closed with a headline for the moderator, Augustine Anthuvan, Editor for International Desk at Channel NewsAsia (CNA), leaving a final statement with the audience. “WDR 2013: technology is a game changer. What next?”

To see the full list of panelists and further information on the WDR launch in Singapore click here.

To see the media release and info-graphics of the WDR click here.