UN-backed partnership aims to use satellites to bolster global diaster response


United Nations : The United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Wednesday joined forces with a communications firm and a business organisation to employ satellites to bolster the global response to natural disasters.

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The poor – especially those living in remote and isolated areas – are most vulnerable to calamities, which wreak havoc and impede sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts.

“Satellite communication provides a platform to deliver a wide range of services and applications even to remote areas,� said Hamadoun Touré, ITU’s Secretary-General.

Last year alone, nearly 22,000 people lost their lives due to natural disasters, with 95 per cent of the deaths occurring in the least developed countries.

“In the digital age, we are able to provide an [information and communications technology] lifeline to disaster victims and humanitarian personnel entrusted with coordinating rescue and relief operations, especially when terrestrial communications infrastructure is disrupted, overloaded or destroyed,� Dr. Touré said.

In the new scheme, satellite provider ICO Global Communications will provide airtime on its F2 satellite – through voice and other telecommunication methods – to effectively respond to disasters, while the Commonwealth Business Council supply content and oversee the entrepreneurial skill development initiative.

ITU will manage and coordinate emergency telecommunications, as well as provide an hour’s worth of airtime daily to assist countries in their preparedness efforts, convey early-warning information and elicit quick response. Should a disaster occur, this hour-long window will be extended as needed.