The rain has finally stopped. Relief and rescue effort is underway from all sectors. There is something to be proud of. We’ve learned a lot since Ondoy. And what we’ve learned, the government has used technology such as Project Noah to its advantage. This time around, the Philippines’ government can cope, and is coping with the disaster. The good folks at the Palace, at the Metro Manila Development Authority, at the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, the local governments, the police and military and countless others— these people deserve more than a standing ovation. There is a difference between Ondoy and Rainy Tuesday. There was a system in place.
If you’re a social media junkie like I am, the last time we had this problem was during Ondoy. There was no government in place, and comms were down, and twitter and other social networks served as the communications medium. It served as a great place for government to advice citizens of service status, of weather alerts, of class, work suspension. It is also great for publishing information in a one-to-many way. It was awesome.
On the one hand, it sucked as a rescue tool. I know it is well-meaning people do the retweets hoping it will get to a government official so some action can be done. We had material being retweeted that proved to be false information. Not maliciously of course, but it adds to the noise that government has to deal with. We had material being published that we didn’t know if rescue services had already ticked off their list. Like people needing help, or trapped. We don’t know which parts needed help, or what kind of help. Did they need more rescue boats? Did they need more food? Water? Where? and what parts so maybe relief organisations can take that slack and take care of that situation.
It is obvious that government is doing its job. As the president noted in a press conference, government has the capacity, but we should help the government too by not overwhelming the rescuers or making it harder for our government to do their jobs.
What I’m thinking that’s missing is a ticketing system. A place where things can be reported— kinda like filing a bug report. Images are tagged for people to send information. Hospitals, government agencies can access the backend so they can publish what area needs what. PGH needs more medicines? What kind? It is published on site. UST hospital is flooded? What level? and is it running out of fuel? There should be a page for that. If people know an area where they need to be rescued? Tag the place with geolocation, name and no. of people. And rescue services and checkin to tag if they’ve been rescued or if it is a false positive. So there is a way for the public to see what is false information, or to see what effort has already been solved so people can move on to the next target. If somehow this could be integrated with twitter and location based services to create a map— a one database where everyone can come together to share information with each other, and with government, relief and rescue agencies, then so much better. If developers are willing to write this app, and someone to partner with government, and other private entities, I for one am willing to donate the server space and bandwidth for it.