The Web During Emergency

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9007784_sThe Web During Emergency – What will happen if the web crashes during an emergency?

More than 100 million cyber attacks on governmental websites during emergencies

A new tender of Home Front Command for the development of emergency applications

The Israeli Internet Society (ISOC-IL) discussed the subject of New Media under fire at a recent conference of the Israel Internet Association.  The Head of New Media at the IDF, Sasha Dratwa participated in a panel which examined the issue of Israel’s publicity in the web.  Dratwa stated “After 57 million exposures on Facebook, and more than 10 million on YouTube, the media stopped talking about the bombing in Gaza, and started to speak about the IDF’s tweets on Twitter. CNN has defined us as technological success. Part of our success can be attributed to the fact we recruited the citizens of Israel to take an active part in Israel’s publicity on Facebook and Twitter – and we won that war. ”

Michal Shreiber CEO of Webb – Dunn, a company which manages the social presence of the Home Front Command at the IDF, explained how the HFC manages its presence in the social networks during emergencies: “The purpose of the use of social networks is to create a dialogue with the citizens both during routine and emergency – and we are the first in the IDF t have started this initiative”. She added that “during the last IDF operation we briefed the population and felt that we saved lives doing so.”

The first panel discussion at the conference was hosted by Tal Navarro, Digital consultant, trainer and lecturer in social media. Members of the panel were: Ben Lang, who started the Facebook page Iron – Doom – Count, Arik Shor, who established a national war room at the IDC with dozens of volunteers who carried out shifts 24 hours a day for the purpose of positive publicity for Israel using the web, and Yoram Morad, the director of digital diplomacy at Israel’s Foreign Ministry.  Morad declared that he learned a lot from the young people who participated and promised that he will resort to them again in the event there will be a need to do so. Morad also mentioned that there is a window of opportunity for dialogue between social media followers from the Arab world and the Foreign Ministry‘s employees, whose job it is to communicate with them. This kind of dialogue exists also during military operations.

While there was a consensus among civil and government agencies and even a promise of future cooperation, on the subject of development of web technologies for emergency times, criticism was raised by those who develop the technology for the government institutions. “Large municipalities have data on the location of shelters and most times they offer cooperation, but when it comes to small local authorities and regional councils there are situations where no list of shelters exists, and if such a list does exist, they treat it as if it was a secret and do not reveal the information,” said Yuval Tessone, the CEO of Zebrapps, which developed the app “the next war.”

Other developers of emergency applications include: Ofir Ben-Avi, director of e-government, the technological arm of the government, Lior Sion, who builds interactive map of shelters, Tal Galili from Aoshaidi Translator, a social network for reporting on disasters; Omri Baumer, the initiator of the  National Resilience Hakthon designed to create applications and technology solutions for the home front.

Uri Segal, CEO iApps – which develops an application that leads the user to the nearest shelter, revealed to participants at the conference that he had received a letter which stated that the Home Front Command would soon issue a tender for the development of an emergency application. This prompted criticism from the developers, who asked, “Why develop a new one when there is one that already exists? We have an app available, I say take it, why waste money? We want to save you money.”

Ofir Ben-Avi, a government representative explained that he was also looking for the list of national shelters and added that the government wants to improve its knowledge management. Ben Avi said that aside from accessibility of information to protect the public, his department also handles the government sites fighting against cyber-attacks and presented the number of cyber attacks during the last operation: 50 million on the Prime Minister’s Office website, 40 million on defense websites, and 10 million attacks on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tal Galili commented on Israel’s readiness for emergency situations, for example, difficult scenarios of earthquakes and mass casualty events. Galili also presented the question: “what technological solutions do we have for such situations?” He stated that, “the biggest difficulty in managing disasters is obtaining real-time data. Let’s consider possible disasters which can occur in the future. Vital information, in such situations is often times scattered among many different participants.”

Professor Yesha Sivan, Chairman of the Israel Internet Technology Association, said: “The network reaches everywhere, from Tahrir Square to those involved with Prisoner X. During the conference we made ​​a special effort to connect government officials with the communications industry, and with volunteers to see how we can use the web to assist us during emergencies as well as during routine and leisure times. We see a great role for the association in creating such a framework.”

This meeting was only one of a number of conference sessions led by the Internet Association. During the course of the entire year the Association conducts meetings for the benefit of its members and the general public. The annual Internet conference will be held in early March. A large presence of participants from all over the world is expected to review the evolution of the Internet on the occasion of 20 years since the establishment of commercial Internet in Israel.