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On 1/4/05, Michael Gurstein wrote in a small part:

> Dear GKD Members,
> I guess like everyone else, I've been watching the tragic events
> unfold...
> ...And thinking of it and scanning the Net for information and for
> stories I'm struck by a couple of things concerning the role (and lack
> of role) of the Net in these events...
> ...I guess I'm a bit surprised that the Net wasn't able (yet?) to bridge
> the information divides between those who had some idea about what might
> be coming (the scientists and those immediately impacted) and those who
> might have been able to make some use of that information in the places
> where the impact took appreciable time to be realized.

One needs to be very careful that one doesn't see all problems as
"nails" even if one is a "hammer salesperson".

The United States is one of the most "wired" countries in the world and
yet it must and does maintain a rather diverse armamentarium in its
emergency preparedness system, including cell phones, radio, TV, local
sirens for warnings of tornados, as well as computers. Each has a
specific benefit. And, as many see, some of these technologies are
merging into a single multipurpose device. The most obvious is the cell
phone combined with a pda which allows for voice, internet and a host of
other levels of exchanges. Yet, even the US is vulnerable to both
natural and human initiated disasters including the infamous 9/11 event
and the recent hurricanes which battered the east coast of the US and
the islands of the Caribbean.

Some of the problems have to do with bandwidth saturation as happened
with cell phone capacity overloading. Other problems, as evident in the
recent tsunami event are due to human fallibility such as organizational
inefficiency and just plain stupidity. Again, the US faced this with its
early warning radar at Pearl Harbor.

Other problems arise due to human error. In the US, again, people want
to build on beach front property though the chances of hurricanes and
similar natural events loom large. In the Pacific we have islands which
are only a meter or so above sea level and not only possible victims of
a tsunami but also flooding due to rising ocean levels possibly due to
global warming.

In a tsunami type of event, rapid response demands one type of
communication. In the case of rising ocean levels, the time sensitivity
suggests other vehicles such as ICT's which develop different responses.

On another list devoted to games and simulations, one thread has shown
how simulations can educate for possible tsunamis. This is a perfect
application for ICT's which not only educate the population from
decision makers to students, but also provide real world applications to
help students learn basic skills. And these can be delivered "at a
distance" via the net to allow for area wide learning. Similar programs
exist to provide knowledge about global warming and a host of other
"real world" issues which increase community awareness while providing
knowledge to teachers and students in schools. It also builds
connectivity between various communities globally.

Such uses of ICT's might play a crucial role in decisions as to how
communities recover and rebuild in a manner which takes into account
potential future problems/opportunities rather than reconstruction in a
manner similar to resetting of pins in a bowling alley, leaving them
vulnerable for the next roll. ICT's form useful communities for
discussion about the "future" and provide for a better connected world.

The net has proven important in the tsunami situation by posting missing
persons and providing other "searchable" materials to meet specific
needs, currently. It will also prove invaluable as the slow process of
rebuilding begins to develop momentum and it may provide a way to
efficiently match needs and support, reducing the inefficiencies which
are seen in previous disaster relief efforts.

But, we must remember that we do need an armamentarium to provide the
best mix of solutions. This list is labeled "GKD" where the center point
is knowledge. How this knowledge becomes available depends on many
factors and computers are only one of the vehicles.


tom abeles

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