By Adeyemi Adepetun
GOVERNMENTS and the private sector have been advised to leverage satellite technology for better disaster management efforts globally.
The counsel formed part of the recommendations made by Access Partnership, a global public policy firm for the technology sector, in its Fair Tech Institute whitepaper, which outlined need to speed up usage of the technology.
The document comes after organisations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Vision of Humanity and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) agreed that weather-related disasters were to become widespread in coming years.
To the whitepaper, released at the weekend, this “increased frequency of natural disasters is set to overwhelm National Emergency Telecommunications Plans (NETPs) and terrestrial service providers currently in place to minimise and mitigate the human and economic cost of adverse weather events.”
The report pointed out that yearly number of natural disasters would increase by 37 per cent (from 442 to 541 occurrences) by 2025.
Senior Policy Manager at Access Partnership, Ivan Suarez, said putting in place satellite services and next-generation satellite-enabled connectivity could mean the difference between saving millions of lives and losing them.
He submitted that the move could also reduce government expenditure during and post-disaster.
Providing key data, the document predicted the economic impact and future burden countries would face if disaster communications planning were not taken seriously.
“The impact of natural disasters will be concentrated among low and middle-income countries, which are relatively less prepared to adapt,” Suarez added.
The paper showed that natural disasters currently cost the agricultural sector of these economies more than $108 billion in damaged crop and livestock production. It pointed out that should the level of financing in climate adaptability remain low, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that climate change adaptation and natural disaster damages could cost developing countries a range of $280 billion to $500 billion per year by 2050.
To reduce the socioeconomic impact of climate-related disasters, governments are encouraged to increase investment in physical and social infrastructure and allow for the upscaling and acceleration of far-reaching, transformational adaptation strategies. This includes the effective use of satellite networks and next-generation satellite technology.
“As shown by this study, we need a concerted effort to fix the underlying inefficiencies of our current, existing communication systems. The paper highlights that the availability of communication networks is directly related to the ability to respond quickly to emergencies,” Suarez stated.
The whitepaper emphasised the need for the development of emergency telecommunication plans (NETPs) given the crucial role telecoms can play in saving lives and protecting communities when disasters strike.
Considering their unpreparedness to bear the financial costs and the need to protect human lives, it said collaborative efforts between governments and the private sector are urgently needed to maintain adequate NETPs.
The whitepaper noted that satellite-based technologies are not as susceptible to disruption during natural disasters, satellite applications have been long recognized as an essential component of any country’s disaster communications management strategy.
It noted that one of the biggest strengths of satellite connectivity is its capability of reaching remote or underserved areas. According to it, while terrestrial-based solutions may only be deployed in regions for which there is commercial justification, space-based technologies can potentially serve large areas, including sparsely populated areas, at the same cost as populated areas.
“In the case of disasters in remote areas, satellite connectivity may be the only available option to quickly restore or supplement vital communications,” the report noted.
According to the report, effective disaster preparedness and response is only possible with adequate policies and regulations.
Access Partnership said the preparedness element in disaster management is not solely dependent on strengthening state control and regulations, but “enabling means to keep the telecommunications industry resilient is equally important. In times of disaster, public authorities, particularly regulators, are required to take immediate actions, including; orchestrating public and private stakeholders, primarily operators, to readily adapt disaster-ready protocols; ensuring redundant networks and encouraging operators to pursue cooperation, for example, for providing technical support to one another, national roaming when necessary, or satellite operator-mobile operator interconnection.”