Kenya taps ICT to deal with famine

January 19, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 19 -The government teamed up with mobile phone operators on Monday to launch an emergency disaster response call centre system that will assist in coordinating and monitoring the current famine situation.

Information PS Bitange Ndemo said the system would ensure that Kenyans were able to alert the government of the circumstances in various parts of the country round-the-clock.

“We want to use the power of ICT to respond to disasters in this country. The objective of this system is actually to provide rapid response to any disaster in this country,” he said.

Kenyans will be able to donate by dialling the toll free number 109 on any network, or using the 222222 number on Safaricom’s M-Pesa service.

He also said that the toll free number can also be used to report cases of corruption in the relief food distribution systems.

“We want to be able to leverage on the fast growing mobile telephony to help our brothers and sisters in remote areas.”

The PS said the system, which had been set up through a Sh55 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, was already operational.

“We have all the relief agencies that are in the field; we want to integrate all those and act in a fast way. For example, if someone in Turkana calls 109 and says we have a problem or disaster, we will have mapped the whole country.”

“We would know which is the nearest relief centre…. we know who the chief or the district officer there is and will be able to call on them and tell them to rush to the area since there is somebody who needs help – or we can call the nearest relief agency,” he said.

Mr Ndemo said a 15-member steering committee comprising representatives from broad sectors would hold its first meeting on Wednesday to set the terms of reference and how the funds would be utilised.

The team comprises representatives from the Media Owners Association, Editors Guild, all mobile phone operators, the Communications Commission of Kenya, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Brand Kenya and the National Disaster Operation Centre.


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