Why Doesn’t Ghana Have A Public Emergency Alert System?


If you’ve ever been on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, you may have come across messages asking for help finding missing persons or even stolen vehicles or criminals/fraudsters.

It’s 2017 and even though social media is a great tool for spreading news and information, it seems a bit strange that we’re not utilizing the power of our smartphones and mobile networks for greater reach.

So why don’t we have a public alert system for the spreading of verified information about missing persons or public information?

Telcos Need To Step Up

Currently, Facebook has a safety feature where users can check in as “safe” after a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. But it’s not localized.

Meaning, users can’t check in as safe when incidents like the Gas Explosion at Atomic junction occur.

This is where the telecom companies in Ghana need to step up. Telcos already have the power to send their subscribers SMS text alerts for internal and external promotions.  So why can’t they use that service to broadcast alerts and safety messages? Has the National Communications Authority (NCA) and collection of telcos not considered something emergency service broadcasts using cell phones for emergencies?

The incident which occurred on Saturday night resulted in a lot of misinformation being spread across social media sites like Facebook and WhatsApp. But if users got text/SMS messages from a more reliable source like Telcos in partnership with state authorities, information about incidents like the gas explosion or flooding in parts of the city could be spread more quickly and be more accurate. Telcos would have to partner up with authorities like the Fire Service and Police who would have more up to date information.

Missing Persons And Public Alerts

I recently read a story that a  reporter wrote in which he said he was at a Starbucks in San Francisco when someone’s cell phone buzzed. After a brief period, another person’s phone buzzed. Soon after, everyone’s cell phone in the Starbucks also buzzed. An Amber alert had gone out with a message that there was a missing child who was last seen in a Toyota Corolla. Sooner or alert, it would be possible for that child to be located and found because almost everyone would be on the lookout.

emergency alert system ghana

Example of an Amber alert

Incidents like the Atomic Gas Explosion shows the need for an “Amber Alert System” in Ghana especially when it comes to missing persons. After the gas incident, there were tweets about missing children who needed to be reunited with the parents. Spreading the news of social media is great but not everyone is on Twitter or Facebook all the time. An SMS or text alert is almost guaranteed to hit a mass of people all at once, especially in a specific geological area because of cell towers.

The question is, why hasn’t a system like that been built yet? Despite all the Corporate Social Responsibility efforts by some of the telcos, why haven’t they all come back together to deploy technologies that can benefit the people in times of disasters? Do they not have the infrastructure?

Perhaps it’s in the pipeline and I’m not aware of it. But it needs to be deployed sooner than later.

Flooding, fires, missing persons….you name it, we need a system which can help spread information faster and help people keep up to date with what is happening on the ground.

This doesn’t have to be related to just emergencies. It could be used for crime awareness as well.

Technology can really be beneficial in times of need. Like Chris wrote in his piece about how technology could be used in terms of disaster, we need to move quickly to deploy technology for rapid responses. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are a great help. But until the authorities can get ahead of things like this and take control in times of panic, misinformation like the gas explosion and other incidents related to it can get out of control.

Joseph-Albert Kuuire
Joseph-Albert Kuuire is the creator and editor of TechNovaGh.com, an online digital platform focusing on technology in Ghana. Email: [email protected]

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