Text message in a bottle...
Sometimes, all it takes is a short message. At Legos, we believe in the power of telecoms, here are 3 powerful examples where an sms made the difference.
One SMS saves 14 lives
Ahmed, a 7-year-old Afghan boy was trying to cross the border between France and the United Kingdom on that fateful day. With thirteen other migrants, he squashed into a refrigerated truck to cross through the Channel Tunnel. Once they arrived on English soil, the fourteen migrants realised that the air was becoming increasingly scarce... The situation was becoming critical, their lives were in danger.
Luckily, a few days earlier in the Calais jungle, Inca Sorrel (an activist for the British NGO Help Refugees) had given Ahmed a prepaid phone and his own personal number.
While air was running out, Ahmed sent a message to Inca, explaining his situation in basic English: “No oksijan (oxygen) in the car, no network, I’m in the container, I’m not kidding”.
A stumbling block: Inca was in New York.
She contacted Tany Freedman, one of her colleagues in London, who then contacted the authorities and also called Ahmed in order to locate the vehicle.
Several hours later, the police flagged down the truck at a motorway rest area in Leicestershire. Fortunately just in time.
Ahmed saved 14 lives, including members of his family.
A simple SMS... Ahmed's example underscores the importance of connectivity today. It is crucial to provide mobile access to people living in remote areas so they can react in dangerous situations and avoid the worst.
Birth under supervision
In 2010, Febronie was living in a remote rural area in Rwanda when she was about to give birth to her son Enoch.
Giving birth at home is common in Rwanda. However, the chances of dying during childbirth are 1 in 35 births compared to about 30 in 1000 in Europe.
When complications started, Febronie asked her husband to contact Helene, a volunteer doctor who had been working in the village for 4 years.
Helene was used to births but the complications quickly worsened and exceeded her skills... Fortunately, the Rwandan Ministry of Health had set up the RapidSMS programme. This is an Open-Source programme for creating emergency scenarios by SMS. By sending SMS codes such as "FE" for fever or "UN" for unconscious, the programme automatically generates a response with the most appropriate care. After first aid, Helene decided to send the code "High Risk". The reply was immediate: "the ambulance is on its way".
As a result, Febronie gave birth to her son Eric under good conditions in the hospital maternity ward.
There are several examples of SMS scenarios around the world such as RapidSMS (known as A2P SMS for Application to Person) for emergency situations, advice or information.
More than 2,500 lives saved
On a larger scale, automated SMS scenarios can be used in the event of a natural disaster. This was the case in May 2017 during Cyclone Mora in Sri Lanka.
A strong monsoon, worsened by the cyclone, caused serious flooding and landslides. The toll of the bad weather was enormous (more than 200 missing) but could have been worse without the government's effort.
In a country where most people do not own smartphones but rather basic mobile phones, SMS was the safest way to reach the entire population.
The Disaster Management Center (DMC) and the insurance company SoftLogic developed an automated SMS hotline providing survival information by SMS. These scenarios enabled quicker rescues.
Overall, this programme helped save more than 2,500 lives.