Thursday, December 5, 2013

Top 10 social convergence tech ... at number 9: the mobile app

There everywhere ! Some people have hundreds of them on their mobile devices. Yes, mobile apps rule ... For gaming, entertainment news and banking, they help us do everything. And they can save lives too! 

It was only logical that organizations would tap into the mobile revolution and the use of devices in disasters and create all sorts of emergency management related apps. First, came the emergency preparedness app. People are on the go, so what better way to bring the EP message right to their pocket or purse? Again, the Red Cross was among the pioneers and they've continued to improve their digital prep tools ever since.

A different use of the app as a preparedness tool is to provide first aid info or ensuring that people trained in CPR are made aware of a nearby medical emergency. A very powerful tool mixing crowdsourcing, geo-location tech and the good will of Samaritans!

Another key element of the emergency communications spectrum also presented itself as a prized candidate for " app-lification  " : public alerting and notification. Examples now abound but the power of reaching people where they are with the info that will be most relevant to them to warn them of impeding events/emergencies, is something undreamed of just a few years ago when TV and sirens were often the only options.

FEMA too realized the enormous potential of the app. It also realized that there are few tools more effective to harness the power of the crowd than a mobile app that can be used by citizens to help report damage. This helps authorities make better informed decisions on where to deploy key resources in the most efficient manner. In Europe, an app helps the agency that deals with earthquake conduct rapid damage assessments by allowing citizens to share pictures instantly. The USGS also leads the way in the use of crowdsourcing to track earthquakes and gauge the damage they cause.

Whether it's for empowering citizens or adding to the array of tools used by responders, apps are key components of the social convergence phenomenon. Fact is, apps can now be put together almost instantly when needed. And a new app is now being launched using crowdsourced financing and it looks promising and very helpful ... which is critical.

No matter what kind of platform or operating system, it's designed for, an emergency app has to do the job and be easy to use to be successful and useful. When done right, the results are fantastic and empowering ... for citizens, volunteers and professionals alike. For that reason, the mobile app sits at #9 in my list of top 10 social convergence tech.

The series so far:

#9: the mobile app (Dec. 5)
#10: Youtube (Dec. 3)

Series introduction (Nov. 29)

Jim Garrow's blog 
Kim Stephen's blog

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