The 8.6-magnitude earthquake that struck off the northern coast of Indonesia this week rattled nerves as well as infrastructure. Luckily it did relatively little damage, unlike the cataclysmic 2004 Indonesia earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed at least 230,000 people in 13 countries. Fortunately, neither did a 6.5-magnitude quake that shook Mexico City the same day and a 7.4-magnitude quake in southern Mexico last month.
All three quakes serve as a reminder of how essential it is for public safety organizations at all levels to have effective measures in place for disaster detection, preparedness, and response. The key is to be able to maintain communications and collaboration capabilities during times of crisis, which can be a major challenge with disasters capable of destroying a country’s telecommunications infrastructure. In these cases, cloud computing and mobile networks can be lifesaving technologies.
Something that Indonesia, Mexico, and many other countries have going for them is that many residents have widespread wireless infrastructure and access to Internet-enabled mobile phones. Mobile technology is in many ways more resilient than traditional communications infrastructure – all someone needs is a properly equipped and powered device to set up a wireless hotspot, for instance. Once people restore connectivity, they can then leverage cloud technologies, which are flexible, resilient, and capable of housing or backing up critical public data in a region outside the disaster area.
Relief organizations around the world are turning to technology to make disaster response more efficient and cost-effective. A great example of a solution incorporating these capabilities through mobile and cloud computing is theMicrosoft Disaster Response Portal. Run onWindows Azure, the portal enables organizations to tailor the template-based portal to their communities’ specific needs and deploy it in as little as 30 minutes after disasters strike.
Two organizations that have already used Windows Azure and other Microsoft technologies to augment disaster response are Second Harvest Japan and AidMatrix, which provided invaluable services after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people. You can learn more about that partnership in this TechSoup blog post, and feel free to learn more about Microsoft’s global partnerships on humanitarian and disaster response as well.
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