There’s been talk on several sites of using SMS, or text messaging, via cellular phones as a part of the alert system.
Using Sri Lanka as an example, land lines are expensive to install at around $250 US, considering the GNP per person in Sri Lanka is $850 per person per annum. Cellular phones, however, are much much cheaper – some plans offer no setup fees and no minimum usage.
In 2002, according to the CIA Factbook, there were 881,400 telephone lines in usage as compared to 931,600 cellular phones in usage. The advertising by the various cellular networks here seem to indicate that one company alone, Dialog GSM, has over a million subscribers by itself. Since that’s advertising, I have no idea if that number is accurate.
Either way, cellular is much more common and much cheaper here than land lines.
So it would seem that setting up an alert system using cellular phones would be a good idea, right?
Problem. Electricity. Where there are cell phones, there must be the capacity to recharge them. Electricity.
Sure, in the west, we’d consider solar power, but despite the fact that solar power is used to heat water here, that’s about as far as it’s caught on. And if you set up solar panels, then you also have to make sure that you have technicians trained to make repairs to any solar equipment you have.
Last statistic I saw indicated that only 62% of the country had electricity. The north and the east, areas that were hardest hit, are the areas where the electrical grid isn’t complete. The civil war – the LTTE – is the reason. Bombing. Destruction. Not allowing the government in.
If you check the UNESCAP site on Sri Lanka, you’ll see that the Ceylon Electricity Board’s 2002 goal is to provide 80% of households with at least minimally adequate amounts of electricity by the year 2005.
I have no idea if they’re going to reach it or not. But let’s say they do. Will that be enough?