Technology – supporting public resilience

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In crisis and emergency situations, individuals need information that is correct, clear and understandable. This information should be presented in a timely manner through multiple channels to ensure that as many people as possible affected by an incident are reached. Next in importance to providing information, is communication with citizens. This concerns finding out what their needs are their needs and facilitating their response and cooperation. If public organisations do not take the initiative, the information void will be filled by other actors and sources that may not always be reliable. However, resilience depends on the activities of many organisations and individuals, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as other long-term or ad hoc groups also play an essential role in communication during crises and emergencies.

Communication is the key factor in building resilience, and technology can contribute significantly to this. Modern technology, such as social media and mobile technology, has not only brought new channels for providing information, but also new interactive and bi-directional ways of implementing communication. From the point of view of response organisations, modern technology can be used in: (1) providing direct information, (2) facilitating multi-directional information flows, and (3) data gathering.

Social media, websites and smart phone applications provide a direct channel for communication – next to mediated by the news media – between response organisations and citizens –. Technology can help provide the information and resources that citizens needs in emergencies, enable cooperation and empower them to help themselves and their fellows. This supports those affected by the emergency by giving them a sense of control and the ability to cope with the situation. Providing information via various channels, including social media, also assists individuals to connect with each other, share and exchange experiences and possibly assist each other in coping better with a diversity of incidents. Information travels fast within and across social networks. Personal devices such as mobile phones can further support the targeting of authority notifications and other information by utilizing characteristics such as the location of an individual. In addition, the receiver can decide on preferred apps or subscriptions, and select settings that, for example, take visual impairments into account.