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picture courtesy Rutgers University

picture courtesy Rutgers University

As part of the Integrated Ocean Observing System, a project to collect and use ocean information continuously covering oceans, coastal waters and the Great Lakes, a 2nd attempt to launch a submarine glider took is about to take place this week.

From the AP story:

Unmanned and without a motor, the glider can rise and dive, seeking out currents that will carry it along without worrying about refueling. Whenever it comes to the surface, it radios its findings back to the scientists.

The ocean plays such a critical role in the dynamics of the climate system, having a better understanding of what’s happening in real time is invaluable information,” said Lubchenco (LUB-chen-co).

“We’re beginning to be able to infer much about the kinds of plants and animals and microbes that may be present from some of the kinds of data that the glider will be taking,” she added.

Besides providing critical information on forecasting weather and ocean conditions, the glider also serves an educational function:

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After the recent volcanic eruption in Tonga, there was considerable miscommunication in Fiji regarding the ensuing tsunami warning.  In the ensuing confusion, parents had no ability to find out the location of children headed for schools in the morning traffic. A situation made more challenging by the fact that school officials were equally in the dark.

We hear from FijiLive that newcomer Digicel is offering it’s service to the nation of Fiji:

Digicel Chief Executive, John Delves said they approached the interim government after the Tsunami alert a few weeks ago with the suggestion of offering a text service to provide early warning to key stakeholders and the people of Fiji.

Vinaka Digicel! Your efforts show a genuine concern for improving the well-being of the people of Fiji. In the past, I’ve been driven CARAZY by marketing efforts that added much to the bottom-line of the incumbent mobile operator, but did nothing for promoting the take-up of new and innovative services.

Functioning so many years without competition, the incumbent operators need to be jolted into action and Digicel seeks to bring just that spark.

The recent volcanic eruption in Tonga resulted in tsunami warnings across the region

The recent volcanic eruption in Tonga resulted in tsunami warnings across the region

 Satellite image of Gene:

The recent cyclones in Fiji and subsequent difficulties faced by the authorities in responding to calls for assistance, brings up important questions about disaster planning and management.

Here is a March 2007 article about a small town on the Golf Coast of the United States modernizing its IT infrastructure to deal with the constant threat of hurricanes. The city’s goals specifically were to create a back-up data center for storage of critical information and to utilize a WiMAX network to ensure uninterrupted communication.

On the questions of cost-savings and deployment:

“When we looked at this project, we chose Wi-Max because it meant only having to place three towers over 100 square miles, rather than thousands of access points with Wi-Fi,” Guy said.

The model developed by IBM is projected to save the city more than $1.4 million over the potential 10-year service period compared to other commercial wireless mobility offerings, IBM reported.

Important to note is that a system implemented for disaster management needs of small local government administration can be used to piggy-back the internet connectivity needs for the city. The article also goes on to state that the project will offer wireless internet access for citizens as part of an effort to improve technology availability and increasing the technical skills of citizens.

In Fiji, it cannot be expected of businesses to invest in such technologies. As such, it is very important for government authorities to understand the technology and work to create the infrastructure.

Wireless communication is not a panacea. It will not cure the cases of diarrhea creating misery for children in the Northern division in the aftermath of Gene. However, the availability of technology and improved education of citizens can only make them take a greater role in planning for their well-being after a disaster strikes.

While it may sound foolish to be talking about wireless networks in light of such critical shortages of things like clean drinking water, we must not lose sight of the longterm need to educate and bring up the awareness level of all citizens in Fiji–so that they may take a more active role in planning for these disasters.

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