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Central Africa focuses on telecoms to meet emergencies

Recently, ITU and Cameroon ran joint a workshop on strengthening ICT for disaster management. The conclusions included a plea for more of the cross-border co-operation and the waiving of paper-work aspired to at the Tampere Convention...

Experts from governments, international organisations, the private sector and civil society met in Yaoundé, Cameroon, from 30 May to 1 June 2007 to focus on Telecommunications and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as a means of bolstering the response to hazards and natural disasters in Central Africa. The workshop was co-organised by ITU and the Cameroon Government's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

The Cameroon Workshop follows similar regional events in Alexandria, Egypt; Bangkok, Thailand; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica aimed at strengthening telecommunications/ICT for disaster prevention and mitigation. 

Recent disasters have had a severe impact on people around the world, leaving a legacy of lost and broken lives and untold economic damage while impeding the development process everywhere. The impact is even worse for those living in remote and isolated areas with no access to basic information and communication facilities that could provide vital early-warning information as well as relief in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. 

Emergency telecommunication is the key for government and humanitarian aid agencies involved in rescue operations, medical assistance and rehabilitation. 

Cameroon calls for ratification of Tampere Convention 

Cameroon Minister of State for Posts and Telecommunications Mr Bello Bouba Maigari, host to the eleven Central African countries and international experts at the workshop, emphasised the importance of telecommunications before, during and after the times that disasters strike. He called for strengthening legislative and regulatory frameworks such as the Tampere Convention which aims at waiving the barriers that impede the use of telecommunication resources during emergencies. Mr Maigari expressed his country's commitment to ratify the Convention, noting that all entities with a role in its implementation phase were represented at the workshop.

"An appropriate regulatory and policy framework is a sine qua non to effective disaster management and paves the way for the development and deployment of the much needed ubiquitous, resilient, and multi-hazard telecommunications network," said Sami Al-Basheer, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. "ITU is ready to give assistance to mitigate the impact of disasters. A workshop such as this opens doors to a new world of possibilities by raising awareness and getting countries to become better prepared." 

Vincent Sakanga, ITU Area Representative in Yaoundé, re-affirmed the Union's preparedness to provide assistance to all Member States as a way of reducing suffering and loss to both human life and property in the event of disaster striking. He noted that the Tampere Convention is a critical element to effective deployment of telecommunications resources in the aftermath of disaster.

Yaoundé sets the agenda for Central Africa 

The workshop adopted a Plan of Action that will be implemented during the 2007-2010 period. The plan calls on ITU to assist the countries in:

 

  • establishing appropriate telecommunications/ICT strategies involving key government authorities such as government ministries, immigration and customs officials, as well as civil society;
  • developing Emergency Telecommunication Plans as part of disaster preparedness;
  • incorporating disaster management features in infrastructure/network development and operations, ensuring that appropriate telecommunications resources are identified and set aside for use when disasters strike;
  • taking appropriate measures to study and ratify the Tampere Convention and incorporate its provisions into national legislation and regulations;
  • implementing the Tampere Convention in individual countries and the region;
  • engaging in national emergency telecommunications drills to improve preparedness;
  • seeking assistance in the shortest possible time in the immediate aftermath of disasters for telecommunications resources, such as easy-to-transport satellite terminals provided free of cost by ITU and telemedicine services.

 

Note: The map used to illustrate this item shows a real-time view of some of the disasters being tracked by the RSOE HAVARIA Emergency and Disaster Information Service in Budapest, Hungary. The map consolidates all disasters, from animal attacks (as seen above in S. Africa) to storms (in Northeast U.S.) to disease epidemics (seen throughout Africa). It also allows the user to click on any epidemic for more details and a close-up satellite picture. For more details visit: http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/index.php

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