The role of mobile phones in emergency and disaster management in Kenya
Mobile phone technology is driving not only communication but also increasingly emergency and disaster management. This study explored, from an organizational context, how and why the selected organizations in Kenya were using mobile phones in emergency and disaster management, the challenges of the same and how this use of mobile phones related to social capital. The study found that there has been a steady integration of mobile phones in emergency and disaster management, through mobile-phone based cash transfers for vulnerable populations, fundraising for emergency kitties and as a means of getting emergency support services to crises populations. From an organizational context, mobile phones are mainly being used in emergency and disaster response. Among the drivers of the uptake of mobile phones in emergency and disaster management has been their near ubiquitous nature - at least 60 percent of Kenyans have access to one. Falling handset costs and increased mobile phone functionality has further strengthened the technology's appeal with the convenience and security offered by mobile phone-based cash transfers for example, boosting the technology's use in emergency and disaster response. The spin-off benefits of using mobile phone technologies include social capital aspects such as feelings of empowerment due to the ability to communicate and access much needed help. Among the challenges identified in the use of mobile phones in emergency and disaster management in Kenya include the high start-up costs due to technology and training needs, poor mobile network connectivity in remote areas, illiteracy, reluctance to embrace the mediation of the technology in aid delivery and the misuse of mobile phones. The study recommends research into more proactive uses of mobile phones in disaster management in Kenya as the technology is predominantly being used in enhancing emergency and disaster response. There are opportunities for the use of mobile phone technology in early warning, preparedness and other mitigation activities that can help Kenya to build resilience in the face of the ever growing threat of emergencies and disasters.