Blog 2 (Fall 2016) – mHealth, by Haylee Mariucci

M-health is a very convenient way for people to receive medical help through their mobile phones. M-health is a convenient way to deal with disaster management for many different reasons. There are also many ways m-health can be used during disaster management. I’m going to go over three applications that use m-health is disaster management, a crisis map, TERA, and Refugees United.

Ushahidi and Tufts University developed a crisis map of Haiti after the earthquake that hit in 2010. Patrick Meier started the map from receiving live tweets on the Ushahidi platform. Ushahidi is a free and open source for mapping technology in Africa. Meier started mapping all the most urgent tweets on the map. Within a couple of days, there was too much information coming in for just his team. Meier reached out to Tufts University to get more people involved. Together, they trained 100 graduates and undergraduates to map the information. The mapping became more complicated because roads in Haiti hadn’t even been mapped by Google Maps in some places. Openstreetmap crowdsourced a map of Haiti using satellite imagery. They also set up an international SMS number that people could texts reports in for the map. Josh Nesbit, a friend of Meier, looked into SMS options to support their map and someone following his twitter put him in-touch with Digicel. Digicel is the largest communication company in Haiti. They came up with a toll-free SMS number that people could text to report needs and locations. This map and the mapping of other countries following this is lead by the Standby Volunteer Task Force. It’s a global network of 850+ volunteers in more than 80 countries who use live mapping skills (Meier).

TERA is another m-health application used for disaster management. TERA stands for Trilogy Emergency Relief Application. It’s a mobile phone app that allows aid agencies and mobile phone users in disaster areas to interact and listen in real time. It’s two-way communication between aid agencies and affected people. TERA was also created in reaction to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. TERA makes aid more efficient, makes sure the right type of aid is being brought and given to the right places, it gives early warnings about natural disasters, it gives information on where to find medical help, clean water, food, and shelter, it also gives people hope that they are not alone. “TERA is a system that is hosted by a GSM based mobile communication network operators for us by IFRC staff” (TERA). GSM is a global system for mobile communication. TERA is designed to operate remotely so as soon as a disaster hits it’s already up and running. TERA allows the IFRC to pinpoint a particular region or even a neighborhood to where mass text messages can be sent (Greber).

Refugees United is the last application I looked at for helping with disaster management. Refugees United in an NGO that allows refugees to find and reconnect with family members and friends. Refugees United teamed with mobile phone companies to create a database for refugees to upload personal information. “A profile includes a physical description, name, place of origin and clan or tribe, as well as defining features such as scars or birthmarks, nicknames, and school they attended” (Parsons). People can search a missing person to see if any immediate matches come up. People can also list a person as missing to look for them. When a person is found, you can send a private message to see if it’s truly them. Refugees United can be accessed many ways, such as the computer, phone lines, face-to-face, zero-rate SMS, and zero-rate USSD, which is unstructured supplementary service data. Refugees United deals with the problems that can arise after a disaster or crisis.

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