Huwebes, Nobyembre 21, 2013

The last play station

A local official stated they received many text messages during the pre-Yolanda period (November 2-7) and until minutes before the huge 3-storey waters overwhelmed the people of Tacloban City, Palo Leyte, several other places in the Visayas, killing as many as 7,000 people (by NDRRMC estimates) or so much, much more.

In selected cases, there were some phone calls, but mostly directed at relatives and high officials; the lowly government functionaries did not get more than these text messages warning them about supposedly 7, 8, even 9 foot-high waters called storm surge.

In many countries in Africa, in Malaysia (Open University System) and India the use of the text message service or short messaging service (SMS), in college education is a real key factor. Malaysia Open University, that promotes the "University for all" mission, states that text is the lowest common denominator of the all the technologies available today. Meaning that it is the easiest to acquire and cheap to maintain. 

When used as extensively as it is being done in China's health workers sector, the text message is no longer as effective, they say, than a phone call reminder. Meaning, that for rural doctors and other medical and health practitioners, using the text is highly limited and cannot satisfy the requirements for health work.

The Canada-based International Development Research Center (IDRC) undertook a study on the use of text messaging for learning. IDRC and other open university advocates have invented a term for text messaging as an adjunct in education: MLearning - from mobile learning.

Clearly, as the above situations point out, text messaging can be effective, only as an adjunct to other tools of education (Open University and Mobile Learning - Africa, Malaysia, India) and information or instructions dissemination (Health Workers Sector - China).

Text / SMS therefore is ineffective, just on its own. Furthermore, in the experience cited above, its usefulness applies to college education and therefore, it is being extensively used in that level of learning. Moreover, if engaged as an educational tool, the use will be frequent, with great level of regularity and distinct clarity of delivery.

What happened in Leyte, such as as Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, as well as in Cebu (the hardest hit was Bantayan Island), among other places, was that the text or SMS could not properly inform, educate much less portray the full extent of the threat of what was handed down by PAGASA Weather Bureau and NDRRMC Manila as storm surge.

No matter how the government keeps telling people that they gave warning, sent out messages, used TEXT BLAST (damn them all!), it could not have been sufficient enough to lead the people away from the tremendous hazard that will confront them and take their lives away.

If they had used the text to students studying geospheric science, atmospheric and hydrologic events, the use of the jargon of powerful winds above 250 kph and 7,8 9-foot high storm surge, will be appreciated.

But then they were texting the poor laymen and ordinary folk serving as local government functionaries, who then still had to explain these text / SMS content to their constituencies. What if the local government functionary was barely literate? And had to explain the content of the text or SMS to a doctor, nurse, engineer, policeman, soldier, teacher, vendor, student, etcetera?

Many people are saying that these cheap means of preserving and saving the lives of people is the last play station that Noynoy Aquino the 3rd will be playing with. Senator Tatad openly called for the 3rd to go away now. Over the Philippine Daily Inquirer comments page, some commenters state: "dapat umalis na sila", "yung pamilya niya, mga kapatid niya ubod ng yayaman na", while others say "mula ng umupo sila, naghirap na ang bansa, kinukuha ba nila lahat ang pera? bakit kami lagi na lang walang pera?"

The last gaming at the play station indeed...

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