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Telecom, IT Companies Aid Tsunami-Stricken Countries

As governments confront the destruction from the Dec. 26 tsunami in Indonesia, the private sector is stepping in to talk about developing alert systems that could save thousands or millions of lives. Companies also are extending the use of their technologies and raising money for relief and humanitarian aid.


On the alert front, San Diego-based SMS.ac says it is creating a warning system using mobile communications. SMS.ac partners with carriers and says it is in talks with foreign governments to implement an early warning system to be used in the event of another tsunami, or earthquake, fire or other emergency.


Michael Pousti, SMS.ac’s chairman and CEO, says the technology for a global warning system already is in place. “SMS.ac currently possesses the ability to send wireless communications to millions of mobile phone users in upwards of 170 countries,” he explains. “Cooperation is now required from government officials to implement a rapid-response alert system that can save lives, today. In that vein, SMS.ac is contacting various governmental agencies to see what can be done to put mobile alert systems in place, in the near-term.”


Pousti says SMS.ac is talking with the governments of Indonesia and India.


“Televisions, computers and radios are not always on and certainly not a reliable form of alert,” Pousti adds. “However, a recent survey of 50,345 SMS.ac members demonstrated that 87.3 percent of respondents keep their mobile phones with them and powered-up at all times. SMS.ac technology and connectivity make it possible right now to simultaneously alert large populations to danger at any time, wherever they may be. That kind of accessibility is not possible with any other medium.


Other companies are providing their technologies to help people reach family and friends affected by the earthquake and tsunami. DirectView Inc., a Florida-based provider of video conferencing, for example, is letting people use its offices in Boca Raton, Fla., and Dallas to make free two-way video conference calls.


We are here to help in any way possible by offering face-to-face, full two-way video communication for any [who] wish to use any of our locations, says Roger Ralston, general manager of DirectView. We are also seeking any in the video conferencing industry to join our `DirectView VideoAid’ effort by calling and adding their name to our list of available locations.



Similarly, World Communication Center in Arizona, an Iridium VAR, is offering free satellite phones to relief groups. “Satellite phones are very useful in this early stage of the relief response, says Kelly Miller, director of relief for World Concern, an aid agency in Sri Lanka. With the communications infrastructure being heavily taxed, and some systems having been destroyed in Sri Lanka, the satellite phones are critical for our ability to communicate, allowing us to move our services forward to serve those in need.


Meanwhile, as relief agencies and governments predict the death toll from the tsunami to rise past the 150,000-mark, the telecom and IT industries are responding by raising funds.


Nortel Networks has contributed $350,000 to the American Red Cross and UNICEF, and is asking employees to match that amount. Alcatel is offering $1 million to its subsidiaries in the tsunami-hit region; and Samsung has given $3 million to its local branches in the affected areas. Meanwhile, AT&Ts philanthropic arm, the AT&T Foundation, has contributed $100,000 to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, with a pledge to match employee donations up to an additional $100,000. The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic branch of Verizon Communications Inc., so far has given more than $1 million to the American Red Cross and UNICEF, and also is matching employee contributions. The carrier hotel tel(x) established the Telecom Industry Tsunami Relief Fund and is sending proceeds to Direct Relief International. And, organizers of the 2005 International Consumer Electronics Show being held in Las Vegas until Jan. 9, is raising funds for the American Red Cross International Response Fund.


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