Two new mobile apps developed by Filipino students and professionals are competing in the 2018 International Space Apps Challenge, a contest for the best app developed during the NASA-sponsored worldwide hackathon on 19 to 21 October. One of the programs is the ISDApp, which provides weather alert to fishermen through SMS. The other is the VITA, a disaster preparedness app that allows users to communicate without cellular signals during emergencies.
ISDApp was developed by marketing employees from TV network ABS-CBN, including Revbrain Martin and Jeddah Legaspi from the ABS-CBN Creative Communications Management and professionals from a telecom company. VITA was developed by IT, computer science and ECE students, namely, Jeorge Loui Delfin, Bluen Ginez, Samuel Jose, Rainier Garcia Narboneta and Eugenio Emmanuel Araullo.
Even if the two apps don’t win in the contest, both have the potential of being adopted in the country for their importance in promoting safety and in saving lives during disaster emergencies. Fishermen can also use the VITA so in case they are caught in a surprise storm offshore and there is no mobile phone signal, they can send a distress message to get rescued.
In case of major disasters like an earthquake or storm surge that also destroy cell sites and towers cutting communication signals, the VITA app should be crucial in getting help and relief goods.
One issue, however, is that if fishermen and people in the countryside don’t use smartphones, they can’t use the two apps. Obsolete phones are obstacles to disaster response.