At the culmination of Philippine Red Cross’ (PRC) month-long 70th anniversary celebration on May 9, the organization proudly announced yet another milestone: the use of “small cellular” technology to power PRC’s SOS cell network, which will enable people to call, text, and connect to the Internet in calamity areas.
Made possible by open source technology, the new communications equipment was unveiled before President Rodrigo Duterte at the sidelines of the commissioning of the M/V PRC Amazing Grace, PRC’s humanitarian ship, held Tuesday, May 9, at the Philippine Navy Headquarters in Manila.
Self-contained networks to be deployed in ground zero
“It is portable, and once fired up in a disaster-stricken area, is capable of connecting our first responders and people in need of help through their mobile phones within a 7-km radius,” said Senator Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
The small form factor of the technology and its low power consumption will allow rescuers to deploy the communications system within minutes after an emergency.
“We can rush many of these to the scene, installed in our Red Cross rescue vehicles. Deployment and activation can be as fast as 30 minutes, and requires only solar power to sustain them,” added Gordon
The self-contained cellular network taps into open source small cell technology. Current advancements in technology allow these types of machines and equipment to be smaller, cheaper, and more power-efficient. This revolution in connectivity is driven, in large part, by global tech giants and Internet visionaries, such as Facebook and Google, who lead the charge to connect the unconnected.
“This is the first time small cell is being introduced to first responders on humanitarian missions in this part of the world,” said Gordon. “Some 25 natural and man-made calamities occur in the Philippines every year. These calamities have, over time, also tended to intensify, as we have experienced. Every ounce of creativity and resourcefulness is needed if we are to respond, and respond with equal intensity. This is where we turn to technology.”
Besides tapping small cellular technology for its SOS network, PRC has been building its capacity as a humanitarian organization through other initiatives.
On April 21, PRC inaugurated a new logistics and disaster management training center in Passi City, Iloilo, through a partnership with the Korean National Red Cross. The new facility was part of PRC's ongoing Haiyan recovery efforts, which, as of April 2017, has already resulted in 77,471 shelters built, as well as 62,683 families provided with livelihood.
Last April 19, PRC raised a total of PHP 37.79 million in pledges and donations by several partners and donors during PRC's annual Fund and Membership Campaign Kick-Off. PRC conducts a year round fund campaign to sustain its operations.
Originally set for May 13 as part of PRC's month-long 70th anniversary celebration, the Million Volunteer Run 4 has been rescheduled to July 23. The annual run aims to raise funds as well as recruit more volunteers for PRC's humanitarian services.