I am interested in the use of technology in emergency response, and the emergence of crowd-sourced response efforts, driven in no small part by technology. The idea of a low-cost, low-powered, decentralized networking system has fascinated me since a response effort in which I was involved following hurricane Katrina. People on the team I worked with used text messaging, email (often as SMS to email) and good old fashioned sneakernets to help connect loved ones, and transfer information between them, and to and from the outside world in our free time. Other communication systems were for, “official use only,” and many cell networks were overwhelmed, if not outright destroyed. A particular memory I have was of a person, just rescued, being processed into a shelter, and worrying about her mother whom she hadn’t heard from in a couple days. We were able, through text messaging, some internet searches by people outside the immediate area, some emails between those searchers and Red Cross volunteers, and then some more text messaging back and forth, to let her know her mother was safe in a Red Cross shelter in another part of Louisiana. This was in a matter of hours, as opposed to possibly days through more conventional routes.
While most people now have cellphones, and mobile networks for voice and data blanket many areas of the world, during times of disaster these can become congested, or destroyed. This is where technology such as goTenna can come into play.