Nº 9 2013 > Smart Sustainable Development Model Initiative
Disaster response and social progress
The frequency and magnitude of natural disasters has substantially increased over the years. These events have serious implications for both developed and developing countries and the lives of their citizens. The poor and the vulnerable are severely weakened, and the impact is even worse for those living in remote and isolated areas with no access to basic information and communication facilities. Information and communication technologies (ICT) and emergency telecommunications can help alleviate the negative repercussions of disasters and can be used to achieve sustainable development goals and stimulate economic growth.
Emergency telecommunications play an integral part in predicting and detecting disasters, and sending out alerts. There are four main aspects to this process: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. When combined with emergency telecommunications, ICT can act as important tools in these processes. Technological advances can help reduce the impact of natural disasters, loss of life and disruption of national economies, and can help prevent crises from spiralling into disasters that impede sustainable development.
ITU’s Smart Sustainable Development Model Initiative aims to create long-term partnership agreements that facilitate the deployment of telecommunication infrastructure for rapid assistance during natural disasters. The idea is to use the same infrastructure both for disaster response and for socio-economic development within regions.
The focus of this initiative is sustainability to meet present and future societal needs. Instead of requiring separate investments for disaster preparedness and social progress, the approach is to optimize the use of new and existing resources both for disaster prevention and management, and for development.
“Leading edge information and communication technologies provide new opportunities to fast track sustainable development. Smart technological solutions can help combat climate change while improving our capacity to respond to natural disasters and, at the same time, provide improved access to basic needs, such as health, education and nutrition,” says ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré.
The Smart Sustainable Development Model Initiative has three pillars — using ICT for emergencies, for development and for capacity building. The purpose is to establish a link between rural telecommunications and ICT used for general purposes (communications, business, education, health and banking) and efforts aimed at reducing disaster risk or managing disasters when they occur. Thus ICT infrastructure used to support rural development will also be used for public safety, and an optimal use of technology will be encouraged to avoid duplication.
Advisory Board holds first meeting
On 18 October 2013, industry and government leaders from the telecommunication sector including satellite operators, policy-makers, regulators and service providers met at the ITU headquarters to form an Advisory Board that will work to promote the Smart Sustainable Development Model Initiative.
Advisory Board members have a range of interests and expertise in emergency telecommunications and sustainable development. They will leverage the transformational power of ICT to push forward innovation and change at all levels. Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, reiterated the importance of harnessing the power of ICT, noting that “ITU acts as a facilitator and provides a platform for stakeholders to map strategies that will be transformed into action with the aim of providing socio-economic development and saving lives using modern ICT.”
Under the chairmanship of John Nasasira, Uganda’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, the Advisory Board issued a call for action to urgently address the needs of those who are most vulnerable to natural disasters.
“It is both a pleasure and a challenge to chair the Smart Sustainable Development Model Advisory Board, an ITU initiative that links ICT for development with humanitarian work. Through this initiative we will explore ways of unmasking technology and showing the human face behind it in terms of our efforts to deliver socio-economic development through effective disaster management”, Mr Nasasira said.
Objectives and strategies
Advisory Board members identified the main objectives and strategies needed to create an operational sustainable development framework that will mobilize key resources and actors (national and local governments, civil society, business and academia) to incorporate innovative projects that make use of new and existing infrastructure to optimally prepare for, mitigate, prevent and respond to unforeseen disasters. They also identified the following areas as being particularly important: infrastructure; regulation and policy; financing, partnerships and business models; new technologies; and advocacy.
The Advisory Board will take two main approaches in order to push the initiative forward. The first is to enhance, scale up or extend the capabilities of existing projects. The second is to devise innovative approaches within the existing framework of the Smart Sustainable Development Model — in other words, to look for alternative ways of meeting the challenging confluences of social, technological, environmental, economic, and political factors and conditions. This approach also seeks to take into account the development of emerging technologies.
The Board’s working groups
In order to move forward in the areas identified as important, the Advisory Board set up the following working groups:
- Working Group on Infrastructure and New Technologies, led by Donna Bethea-Murphy, Vice President of Regulatory Technology, Iridium Satellite.
- Working Group on Policy, Regulation and Advocacy, led by Christian Roisse, Executive Secretary, Eutelsat IGO.
- Working Group on Financing, Partnerships and Business Models, led by Flavien Bachabi, Vice President of Business Operations and Intergovernmental Initiatives, Intelsat.
The Advisory Board will meet again in 2014 to review progress and address strategic issues.
More information on the Smart Sustainable Development Model Initiative is available at
Videos and interviews with the Chairmen and Board members are available at