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A United Nations event, organized in conjunction with the Turkish government, the other day highlighted the role of innovative mobile technology in saving lives when conflicts and disasters strike.
“In countries prone to disaster or conflict, rapid information sharing about preventative measures can save lives and property,” the associate administrator of the UN Development Program (UNDP), Rebeca Grynspan, said at the event in New York.
“Mobile technology enables citizens to connect to each other and authorities, spreading critical information in times of crisis.”
A UN release reports that the event sought to showcase examples of how information technology — particularly mobile phones — has been used in the prevention, response and recovery from conflict and disasters around the world.
Turkey had experience using mobile technology during the aftermath of the Van Province earthquake, which struck the eastern part of the country in October 2011. More than 600 people were killed and basic infrastructure, including numerous schools, were seriously damaged or destroyed.
Grynspan praised the Turkish mobile company Turkcell for its role in the transmission of life-saving SOS messages in the wake of recent earthquakes in Turkey as well as its contribution to post-disaster recovery and fundraising.
Turkcell says it helped send more than 10,000 text messages requesting emergency assistance during the earthquake. In addition, with support from Turkey’s Ministry of Education and in association with the Turkish Education Foundation, Turkcell created “Money-Box for Van,” a fundraising initiative that raised millions of dollars to rebuild quake-resistant housing for teachers and student dormitories.
“In the aftermath of the Van earthquake, Turkcell facilitated ICT (information and communications technology) access enabling people to send SMS messages and request help to be rescued,” Grynspan said. “There is no doubt that Turkcell’s actions — encouraged and enabled through public policy — saved people lives and livelihoods.
“I am confident that today’s event will give us ample opportunity to learn from Turkey’s and UNDP’s experience,” Grynspan said, adding that she hoped that these examples would also be replicated in other parts of the world.