David Stephenson has an interesting series of articles on how public officials and relief agencies could deploy simple, cheap technologies to tackle the problems caused by disasters like hurricane Katrina. The idea is to turn disaster victims into smart mobs that can be more readily marshaled to deal with disaster recovery. David's suggestions include:
- using an ad hoc FRS radio network similar to the DCERN one in DC. FRS radios and back-up batteries, dropped to disaster victims in their homes would allow officials to get on-the-ground observations and give instructions.
- creating an ad hoc mesh network citywide using software like the FREE CU-Win mesh software. This would only work for people with power and connectivity, but would provide a means of coordinating volunteer and recovery efforts.
- using Wiki software like JotSpot or Socialtext to create officiall sanctioned neighborhood-by-neighborhood Wikis. The Wikis would allow people to enter detailed information and even pictures, coordinate clean-up and recovery, and even host simple applications.
- using presence applications to coordinate communications among responders.
These only scratch the surface, as far as I can see. Making this work would require some out-of-the-box thinking on the part of government agencies and NGOs, but it is a fascinating idea. Allowing disaster victims to become part of the solution would bring many more eyes, ears, and most importantly minds, to bear on the problem and help dispel the feeling of hopelessness that disaster victims feel.