lightweight, and cheap. Reflecting
Rao’s promotion of dual-use technologies that require minimal training,
UNICEF is pioneering RapidSMS and
a field-based communications system
RapidSMS provides real-time transmission of data in a breaking emergency or in a long-standing disaster, allowing aid workers to monitor supplies
and report on situations that require
immediate response. At the moment,
it is being used in a number of African
countries to monitor nutrition, water,
sanitation, and supply chains.
UNICEF’s Bee is an open source
emergency telecommunications sys-
tem that provides Internet access in ar-
eas where infrastructure is nonexistent
or unusable. It provides a telephony
service and Wi-Fi access to applica-
tions such as ones that monitor health
and track supplies. The Bee system re-
quires no tools, and can be installed by
a field worker and be operational within
30 minutes. Working with RapidSMS,
it helps UNICEF provision supplies
appropriately and gives workers im-
mediate warnings of potential health
risks and disease outbreaks. When an
area stabilizes, the Bee system is left in
place, acting as a base for a new com-
in malawi, unicef’s Rapidsms system enables the registration of children and the monitoring
of their nutritional status in an effort to stem the nation’s high infant mortality rate.
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A systematic approach to improve
communication for emergency response.
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and information system for catastrophic
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Computing Systems, Montreal, Canada,
Palen, L. and Liu, S.
Citizen communications in crisis:
anticipating a future of ICT-supported
public participation. Proceedings of the 25th
International Conference on Human Factors
in Computing Systems, San Jose, CA, April
Shklovski, I., Palen, L., and Sutton, J.
Finding community through information
and communication technology in disaster
response. Proceedings of the ACM 2008
Conference on Computer Supported
Cooperative Work, San Diego, CA, november
Showalter, P. and Lu, Y. (eds.)
Geospatial Techniques in Urban Hazard and
Disaster Analysis. Springer, new York, 2009.
From the margins to the mainstream?
disaster research at the crossroads. Annual
Review of Sociology, Palo Alto, CA, August
© 2010 acM 0001-0782/10/0200 $10.00
PhotograPh by UNicEF/ EVaN WhEELEr
Sarah Underwood is a technology writer based in