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Early Warning Systems in the Philippines: Building resilience through mobile & digital technologies

The Philippines consistently ranks as one of the countries most affected by natural hazards in the world. Typhoons, storms, floods, landslides or droughts are all common. In December 2021, the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Rai, which devastated island and coastal communities and flooded cities all over the country. It was recorded as the second deadliest disaster in the world that year. Extreme weather-related events such as these are expected to become more frequent with climate change, causing further loss of life and significant economic damage, especially for the country’s most vulnerable.

Digital innovations have the potential to fill some of these gaps, and the Philippines can learn from and build on the experiences of other LMICs that have faced similar challenges with mobile and digital solutions and services. In Cambodia, for instance, IoT devices have been developed to provide fast, relevant and context-specific early warnings and updates. In Sri Lanka, the National Disaster Management Centre, in partnership with a private sector ICT specialist and a national MNO, have developed devices and APIs to improve the dissemination of alerts to communities that are not well connected. In Indonesia, a mobile app has been used to gather online communities in person to organise and respond to disasters.

To leverage these solutions, the Philippines will need to address several barriers to technology adoption and digital innovation. Many communities in the country, primarily in remote areas, either do not have network coverage or face other barriers to use. Closing the coverage gap is a prerequisite for digital EWS and will require expanding infrastructure, making it more resilient and improving connectivity. The usage gap will also need to be closed by addressing barriers to access, including the high costs of digital devices and services, lack of digital literacy and skills and low awareness of, and trust in, digital solutions. Inadequate data governance and regulatory frameworks may also reduce incentives to invest in and adopt mobile and digital technologies.

Addressing the gaps in EWS and tackling the barriers to technology adoption will require effective and genuine cross-sector collaboration and Early Warning Systems in the Philippines: Building resilience through mobile and digital technologies coordination at national, regional and local levels. First, there is a need to work on the factors that enable people to adopt technology, including the availability of and access to adequate infrastructure and high-quality connectivity, and their ability to own digital tools and services. Second, there is a need to address the fragmentation of EWS by streamlining overlapping solutions from the national to the local level. Third, it is essential to make impact forecasting more granular to better understand the risks and needs of local communities in specific areas and how best to prepare and respond to these risks.

The report provides detailed recommendations for key stakeholders to strengthen EWS through mobile and digital technologies in the Philippines. Government stakeholders should focus their efforts on enhancing risk knowledge and impact forecasting, improving data governance and regulations, and support digital literacy at all levels. MNOs, which are key actors at the dissemination and response stages, need to make mobile networks more resilient and expand coverage. They should support their customers in accessing information and work alongside other actors involved in the EWS ecosystem. For solution providers, complementing existing government platforms, designing for local needs and users, and adopting an inclusive design approach is essential. International donor organisations also have a role to play in addressing the specific needs of local actors and enhancing coordination with the development community.

Link to the report: Here


Thank you to the UrbanEmerge team:

Lead authors: Clara Aranda and Eugenie Humeau

Contributing authors: Andreas Beavor (Urban Emerge), Fizza Fatima (Urban Emerge) and independent consultants; Chris Jimenez Tapnio, Juan Miguel Villarba Torres, Kay Zabala and Noralene Uy.

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