To fulfill a human obligation of taking the best possible effort to save at least one life - if not many from one the largest human catastrophes to hit Sri Lanka in the recent past through a Mobile led Execution.
Though an annual occurrence, in 2016 Sri Lanka was severely affected by the Southwest monsoon resulting in flash floods in more than three provinces. During the initial few days, there was a sheer lack of information on the actual situation and the condition of the victims, whilst critical interventions to be undertaken in terms of rescue operations and distribution of essential items were not properly identified. Over 163,000 families were affected with infrastructure such as road networks being submerged, whilst the death toll counted more than 200 individuals.
Hence a new entrant to the insurance category(Client), wanted to contribute to the relief operations by addressing the most dire necessities of the hour.
*Data gathering and insights
It was a creative and yet very rational choice, as the country enjoyed a high mobile penetration of 109%. Even with the lack of electricity required for charging, the country is a 70% feature phone market.
All flood-affected communities living across more than 15 districts fell into the target group (seven districts critically affected).
*Relevance to platform
Mobile phones emerged as the only available 'life-line' when affected communities were cut away from all sources of connectivity such as TV, radio and newspapers. It was supported by facts, like that Sri Lankan users glance at their phones an average of 200 times a day.
Due to connectivity limitations and highly-congested DMC voice lines, a SMS-based communication solution was devised as means of contact.
Our objective was to fulfil the human obligation of making the best possible effort to save at least one life from one of the largest catastrophes to hit Sri Lanka in the recent past.
Due to the high network traffic during this time, connecting to the DMC (Disaster Management Centre – the government-affiliated body to provide aid and rescue) through voice calls was next to impossible, leaving many callers helpless. Since the country predominantly is a 70% feature phone market, the solution demanded something as simple as a SMS hotline. We partnered with the local mobile service provider to develop the product. The SMS hotline was directly linked to the DMC, who were able to understand the context of the message and take the necessary steps towards action.
The victims of the flood were completely disconnected from civilisation and there was complete ignorance on the number of people affected and their actual condition.
The DMC had to rely on people trying to get in touch with them – seeking help from the affected areas rather than the DMC reaching out to them, which was not always possible due to the high number of fatal landslides and the road network being inundated.
Due to the high network traffic arisen following the disaster, contact with the DMC through voice calls was impossible, a situation which prompted us to come up with a communication solution based on common short messaging services as means to contact the DMC.
With the help of the local mobile operator, a SMS hotline directly linked to the DMC was activated with a simple but efficient dashboard giving critical information at a glance, which allowed to understand the context of the message and take necessary action swiftly. The system was agile enough to be up and running in 24 hours. The geo targeted SMSs focused on affected locations, whilst awareness-building posts increased reach on Facebook.
Within just a few hours after going live, the lines were inundated with a multitude of responses streaming in. Initial responses were about the actual locations of affected victims and requests for evacuation. Whilst the first line of messages of requests for evacuation weaned off, the second line of responses requesting for aid, assistance, and food started streaming in.
Numerous social activists and other social influencers also started posting, sharing, liking the efforts taken, which further amplified the exercise, which had started to show significant results by then.
A secondary line of mediums included some of Sri Lanka's biggest community pages in social media platforms, which were contacted for additional reach and scale.