Following up on this previous BoingBoing post:
Problem -- No effective system of mass, international alert existed in South Asia to quickly warn those in harm's way of the tsunami's approach.
One approach to a solution, created in the span of about 24 hours by an impromtu volunteer geek corps -- A tech system called Alert Retrieval Cache (ARC) which collects, sorts, and routes SMS messages for the puposes of alerts and relay communication. An early warning system based on SMS, short message service.
Rohit Gupta in Mumbai (one of the folks behind DesiMediaBitch, excellent tsunami coverage in recent days) says,
When you need a genius, invent one. We are a genius. Last 24 hours we spent in creating a system of sending and receiving SMS messages through a network of relief people. Here is the page in progress -- Link. These messages you see are SMSes, sent directly from Sri Lanka onto a webpage. ARC was created by Neha Vishwanathan, Rohit Gupta, Taran Rampersad, and Dan Lane.
Link to more on DesiMediaBitch.
Here's a snip from the ARC project workspace:
How can a single SMS can save people's lives? If all the people relevant to that message can receive it, instantaneously. In the following system, the SMS message also contains a way of deciding which recipients are relevant to the message.
Why do we need ARC? The failure of state-owned and hierarchical warning systems to alert us about the South Asia earthquake & tsunami, despite prior information has put into focus issues of forums for information exchange. What we need is to get credible, real time information from the grassroots to save lives.
How does this ARC work? Here's a scenario - Morquendi is a relief worker in Middle Earth, and he runs short of medical supplies, specifically antibiotics. The supplies are needed immediately. He needs to inform someone from his location. He sends out an SMS to ARC ... The Sorter program looks for similar keywords in the cache, as in Morquendi's message. After the program is done sorting, it links this message to all those numbers that are attached to similar attributes as in Morquendi's original message. Then it flashes this message to all these numbers. Real-time, instantaneous. People in the vicinity, and anyone across the world who is awake, or knows Morquendi, receives this message.