Social media proved effective in disaster response: Stakeholders

KATHMANDU: A bus hit a pedestrian at a zebra crossing in Ratna Park at around nine in the morning yesterday. The driver fled the scene. But not for more than 10 minutes. Thanks to information received via Twitter, police nabbed the culprit.

Police officials could take prompt action as a Twitter user had tweeted the name and number of the bus and his follower had re-tweeted the information to Nepal Police’s official Twitter handle (@NepalPoliceHQ).

The incident highlights the effectiveness of social media in maintaining decorum in the society, among others. Nepal Police has been receiving huge accolades for mobilising social media effectively after the massive earthquake to save lives. A day after the quake struck the country, Nepal Police opened its Twitter account on April 27, and @NepalPoliceHQ now has more than 21,000 followers.

“After I received the information on Twitter, I called 103 and asked our officials to impound the bus,” said SSP Rajiv Subba of the Communication Directorate of Nepal Police Headquarters, while addressing an interaction on ICT in Earthquake Disaster Management yesterday.

Based on his experience of using social media for effective response to earthquake victims, SSP Subba said that a huge number of people — mainly the young generation — were actively participating in social media.

The programme was organised by Computer Association of Nepal (CAN) Federation to share the experience on the use of ICT tools in disaster response by different stakeholders.

With the help of social media — Facebook and Twitter — police were able to take stock of trapped people, those needing immediate medication in earthquake-hit areas and channelise emergency support in an effective way to save lives.

“We had an understanding that even as there is good data penetration, users of social media are less. But it has now been proved wrong,” said SSP Subba, who spent 18-hours-a-day collecting information received through social media for a month after the quake.

Users had basically put up information about people missing and complained about black marketing and buses charging exorbitant fares, among others, after the earthquake, he said.

After the disaster, of the total complaints received by police related to missing people, 50 per cent requests were via Facebook, 29 per cent through Twitter and 21 per cent were through SMS, according to police. Each day, police through its Twitter handle have been responding to 76 tweets on an average, and have been interacting with users by sending 10 direct messages per day.

Binay Boraha, president of Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal (ISPAN), said that as other communication tools had been affected, social media had become active during the time of crisis.

After the devastating quake of April 25, ISP companies had faced problems owing to staff members not reporting for duty, power shortages and house owners not allowing to run diesel generators to restore the service, as the noise would be a nuisance and might add to woes of fear-stricken people.

“The main challenge was lack of power as back-up power could

be maintained only for 24 hours,” said Surendra Karmacharya of Nepal Telecom. He added that after the disaster, there was also big pressure from house owners to remove towers.