A lot of us who are not so technology savvy, always have criticized internet and social media in particular of having taken over our lives. A common statement heard often is “You seem to be wasting all your time on it”. The devastating floods in the state of Jammu and Kashmir proved that social media can play a very crucial role in national disasters too.
One could read a large number of messages on Facebook and WhatsApp which gave out details of families trapped in various parts of Srinagar and requested the recipient to forward the message to as many people as he/ she could. The aim perhaps was that someone somewhere responsible for relief operation may also receive the message and would act on it. Not a very assured method but a very innovative method indeed. The Facebook page of ADGIPI, Indian Army was abuzz with information of people who are stranded, families who had been rescued and the good work being done by the Indian Army.
But the biggest stumbling block perhaps in this entire process is the breakdown of communication infrastructure. The moment the communication lines snapped due to heavy floods, with it went down the internet. Unless the internet is somehow kept functional, the reach of social media gets crippled. This is where the concept of “Outernet” will perhaps provide the solution. The project of Outernet is aiming to beam Wi-Fi from space using hundreds of miniature satellites in the low Earth orbit by June 2015. Using something known as Datacasting technology, which involves sending data over wide radio waves, a New York based company says they’ll be able to broadcast the Internet around the world free of cost.
If such a thing was to become reality, it would become very simple to contact people in disaster hit areas and get timely help to them. Social media will adopt much more significant role in such a scenario.