Don't count on technology to save you in a disaster - researchers
By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA, Aug 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Newfound enthusiasm for the latest technologies, such as drones and smartphones, to improve the way aid is provided to people in disasters may be overblown, experts warned on Thursday.
The annual World Risk Report from the United Nations University (UNU) highlights the growing interest in new technologies to improve emergency response - from drones that can survey crisis-hit areas to social media networks that allow survivors to communicate with the wider world.
These can provide important information to the logisticians who organise aid delivery or health workers trying to track deadly diseases like Ebola in no-go areas, the report said.
But Matthiasƒ Garschagen, a risk management expert with the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), said it could not substitute for the basic infrastructure some countries have lacked for decades.
"Too many people see technology as the main panacea for solving all the problems you have after disasters strike," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "A lot of development experts put too much emphasis on technology."
In Africa, for example, there are just 65 kilometres (40 miles) of paved road per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 832 km in Europe or 552 km in the Americas.
In heavy rain, dirt roads soon become impassable, which hampers the delivery of aid, the report said.
"No smartphones in the world are going to significantly change this state of affairs," Garschagen said in the report produced with the University of Stuttgart and Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, an alliance of German aid agencies. Continuación...