The purpose of our recently launched initiative on the smart sustainable development model [SSDM] is to save lives while promoting socio-economic development. SSDM was launched following the realization that there have been two parallel processes taking place in the field of emergency telecommunications. One process is ICT for development (ICT4D) and the other is ICT for disaster management (ICT4DM).
SSDM seeks to marry these two initiatives that have traditionally been running in parallel in order to account for public safety and capitalize on infrastructure and resources. The rationale behind this initiative is based on the knowledge that in order to truly create an effective sustainable model, global disaster management efforts need to be integrated with long term initiatives. The aim is to create synergy between the two efforts using the same resources and excess satellite capacity. In line with this, SSDM strives to link the axis of development (ICT4D) and the axis of disaster preparedness (ICT4M) for the betterment of society.
On a personal level, SSDM is very important to me because it has the potential to directly impact people’s lives. The statistics alone are a clear indication of the significance and timeliness of this initiative. Between 2002 and 2012, 1.2 million people lost their lives as a result of natural disasters. Equally important is the fact that 9 billion lives were affected and economic damages are estimated at around $1.7 trillion. Between 2010 and 2012 the average natural disaster was 368 per year i.e. more than one natural disaster per day. The frequency and magnitude of these occurrences clearly indicate that ICT business and corporate social projects should incorporate disaster resilience and preparedness into their agendas in order to effectively counter the challenges we are facing today.
The SSDM Initiative will bring these issues to the forefront and have a positive impact on the future. The first steps have already been taken through the creation of the Advisory Board, and the next will involve investing in the ICT Sector to ensure there is a return on investment in all stages of disaster risk reduction.
This initiative is also a clear indication of the catalytic role ITU plays in bringing important issues to the forefront and bringing partners and initiatives together. I personally invited individuals from the emergency telecommunications and disaster relief sectors to be part of the SSDM Advisory Board which is composed of eminent personalities with strong track records, expertise and experience, capable of seeing beyond conventional ‘business as usual’. The SSDM initiative now represents a multi-stakeholder platform led by ITU to nurture new and existing relationships with key players in governments, the private sector and civil society.
I am very pleased to work with these leaders who share the same passion for saving lives in a sustainable manner.
It is a pleasure to report that the first Advisory Board meeting was extremely successful. Under the leadership of Chairman Minister John Nasasira, the Board Members exchanged personal and professional experiences as well as valuable regional perspectives on a range of issues pertinent to the initiative. These included: infrastructure, regulation and policy aspects, financing, partnerships and business models, advocacy and new technologies.
To prevent the duplication of efforts and gain a better understanding of what has and is being done by other entities, the Board has decided to initially work on mapping activities and challenges in the ecosystem in a report or white paper. This will be carried out in a structured way led by three main working groups centered around; a) Infrastructure and New Technologies, b) Advocacy, Regulation and Policy c) Financing, Partnerships and Business Models. The purpose of these working groups is to eventually generate practical and realizable recommendations and solutions related to the initiative.
What are we committed to deliver over the coming months?
We have now taken the first steps in this process and I truly believe that the sum of our efforts and commitment will go a long way to make a difference on the ground. I am aware that this will not happen overnight but I am confident that it will be a success as it is evident that Board Members share my positive motivation towards achieving the goal. This was very clear in the first meeting they displayed enthusiasm, a strong vision for the initiative and creativity in terms of proposals for the future.
In line with my special meaning for the word TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More), in the upcoming months, I am excited to see the Board will address these issues and help develop a sustainable model that can be introduced into developed and developing countries to truly make a difference when disasters strike.
For more information about the Smart Sustainable Development Model please visit: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Initiatives/SSDM/Pages/default.aspx
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By: Brahima Sanou
Mr. Brahima Sanou was elected Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau by the Plenipotentiary Conference, 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico. He took office on 1 January 2011.