Unlike the federal government, the Internet responded to Katrina with flying colors, writes Declan McCullaugh at News.com.
By the end of the day, an online aid network was forming. Craigslist.org's lost and found forum for New Orleans was adopted to find missing people, a "Katrina Help" Wiki had launched, and other ad hoc forums emerged.
Bloggers were not alone. Ham radio operators quickly organized and began to pass along messages from stranded flood victims. One led to the rescue of 81-year-old Helen Elzy who was stuck on a roof in New Orleans, according to the American Radio Relay League. Many others were rescued thanks to ham radio operators' rapid response, which by Wednesday even included a speedily created database of volunteers.
These efforts "were quick, voluntarily organized and reasonably effective. That is, sadly, almost exactly the opposite of the government efforts that were slow, disorganized and ineffective." But he's not ready to bash the Bush administration. Declan thinks government response is inherently weaker than the ability of ad hoc groups to move fast, with no red tape.
"Top-down systems such as the federal government [are inherently inefficient] compared with the rapid, efficient and effective organizing that individuals can accomplish on their own," he writes.
This is essentially to argue that the federal government can simply leave the job to "faith-based organizations," ad hoc groups and other thousand points of life. That's wrong. National disasters require the weight of coordination and money and military force that only the federal government can deliver. While the government could certainly be a lot smarter about using the Internet, dedicating more spectrum for emergency services, and using other non-traditional communication schemes, the fault lies with the administration - not the very idea of a massive federal response.
Emergency Communications White Papers
- Rapidly Deployable Broadband Wireless Communications for Emergency Management - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
- HP: Crisis Communications - Hewlett-Packard
- National Security and Emergency Preparedness Plan - AT&T
- Investing in Innovation: MCI Helps Government Connect - e.Republic
- HP: First Responders - Hewlett-Packard
- Department of Communications and Information Technology: Center for Geospatial Information Services - Three Year Operational Plan FY2004-2007 - City of Virginia Beach
- Project SAFECOM: Key Cross-Agency Emergency Communications Effort Requires Stronger Collaboration - Government Accountability Office
- Communications Interoperability: A Critical Link in Emergency Response - Motorola
- Wireless IP - Internet Without Wires - National Communications System
- Avaya Communications Continuity Solutions for Government: Increasing the Effectiveness of Your Organization and Its Mission - Avaya