June 15, 2017 • Innovation, Start up

Social Disaster Management Technologies: When Facebook introduced its disaster application, Facebook Safety Check in 2014, it would reiterate the growing need to use technology in perilous situations. Now more innovators are looking to leverage this power to address the gaps in disaster management.

In Africa, there are a couple of notable instances where technology has been used for good.

Four important African social disaster management technologies

Kenya Red Cross

– Social Disaster Management Technologies: example

Kenya Red Cross has been operating in Africa since 1965 as a humanitarian relief organisation and its work has been much applauded. Recently, technology has become a big part of the organisation.

Social Disaster Management TechnologiesThe organisation’s mobile application (KRCS App) has been in existence for over a year now and it helps message volunteers on different relief efforts. Apart from registering volunteers the application also helps members call ambulances in times of need.

The application enables members to reach emergency services at a touch of the button. It also has a blood donation appeal to help the organisation address blood shortages in its banks.

KRC aims to add location functionality to be able to locate members and achieve quick emergency reports in peri-urban and rural areas.

During the launch of the app, in April 2016, Dr. Abbas Gullet the Secretary General of Kenya Red Cross was adamant about the benefits:

“Through this App, KRCS will be in a position to easily show Kenyans and the world that through education, use of technological solutions, political regulation and financial support, we can achieve sustainable development. This means KRCS has put this nation at the forefront in using technology to bring innovative solutions to our challenges,” Gullet said.

The organisation is looking to up its ante in the adoption of technology in the coming months. According to Priyanka Patel, Program Officer for Innovation at the Kenya Red Cross, technology is becoming core in the organisation’s operations.

In an interview with ITWeb Africa, Patel said that the Red Cross will establish an innovation lab to come up with new technologies that will serve them. The lab will be a crucial move to add more innovative features into their app.


– Social Disaster Management Technologies: example

Refunite has had a great impact in reuniting families in war-torn regions of Africa. Refunite uses USSD, the lowest technology available in developing regions, to collect information and match up family members.

Social Disaster Management TechnologiesThe founders, David and Christopher Mikkelsen launched the service in 2008 after their encounter with an Afghan refugee. They wanted to make it easy to reunite families that had been separated by war. Their work has been recognised in East Africa where there is a huge number of refugees.

The service has been listed on Facebook’s Free Basics to ensure users are not charged through partner ISPs. By April this year the database had over 600,000 people who were looking to reunite with their loved ones.

Refunite operates in Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The platform hosts encouraging stories of families who have reunited with their loved ones.



– Social Disaster Management Technologies: example

Born during the 2007/8 Kenyan post-election violence, Ushahidi has carved out its niche as the to-go platform when mapping out disasters. The world-renowned application has been used Social Disaster Management Technologiesglobally to report on events, from the Nepal earthquake crisis in 2015 to the 2016 US elections.

In March this year the company launched its mobile application to make disaster reporting easier. This has opened up its platform so anyone with a mobile phone can create alerts.

The company said in its launch that with support for offline data collection – including videos and photos – the iOS and Android apps would help people quickly complete surveys from their smartphone in any location, with or without an internet connection.

The app saves data that contributors collect within it, including detailed GPS location data, and sends the report to the appropriate Ushahidi deployment once it can be reached.

“The mobile app is easy to use and is a long-awaited addition to the solution. We would definitely use it for our crowdmaps on safety in public spaces,” Chief Executive Officer, ElsaMarie D’Silva said. “We look forward to further developments from Ushahidi to help organisations like ours to use technology for good in a very economical manner.”

Ebola Care App 

– Social Disaster Management Technologies: example

The 2014 explosion of the deadly Ebola virus in parts of Africa gave rise to technological instruments crafted by concerned citizens. The applications helped to map out affected areas, give information on how to prevent risky contact and recognise symptoms. Such applications could help in fighting the disease in future since outbreaks are still possible.

Social Disaster Management TechnologiesThe Ebola Care app used data collection techniques to inform aid workers on how the outbreak spread and where to go next. The app, created by Philip and Malan Joubert, brothers from South Africa, received great global reviews.

During its implementation the application was able to store contacts for victims and aid workers, call for ambulance pickup, give education on how to manage the disease and could also track orphans whose parents had succumbed to Ebola. The application also worked well offline.

“We built the Ebola Care app for their health workers to help coordinate efforts and collect data,” the company said on their site.

The app reportedly helped over 1000 aid workers to control the spread of the outbreak. The developers behind the application reported to have received over US$500,000 from all over the world to push their application and give aid workers handsets.

Editor’s comment: we hope that many more Social Disaster Management Technologies will, in the near future, show up in almost every country on the African continent.

By Vincent Matinde

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