More than four (4) billion people around the world are now using the Internet – this is according to the new 2018 Global Digital suite reports from ‘We Are Social’ and ‘Hootsuite’.
Same study reveals that out of 106 million Filipinos, 67 million are online and active social media users; this is equivalent to 63% penetration of the Philippine population.
In one day, a Filipino spends more than nine (9) hours browsing the Internet – this is the average daily time spent online using any devices. There is also an increase of 12% on the number of Internet users in the country since January 2017.
These figures and facts are seen as an opportunity in the field of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) – maximization of social media to boost virtual presence.
Nowadays, social media has become a dynamic communications tool during disasters; its use goes far beyond social aspect. From a social networking site, it has been evolved into a much deeper information-sharing platform. Social media has the ability to keep us up with disaster events since the information flow can be extremely fast-paced; it has the ability to spread information with wider reach.
To substantiate these statements, actual scenarios have been experienced.
By managing the official social media accounts of the Office of Civil Defense Cordillera (OCD-CAR), it has been observed that netizens tend to seek for real-time updates during calamities, emergencies, or any significant events.
In October 2016, the Facebook page of OCD-CAR recorded one (1) million reach; this was the time of Super Typhoon Lawin. Also, the office recorded its highest influence online in the first quarter of 2017 with more than four (4) million reach because of updates on the decrease of temperature in the province of Benguet.
During disasters and emergency situations, information is as vital as primary needs of the people – it can mean life or death. Rapid changes in situations caused the public to become more curious – when will the tropical cyclone exit Philippine area of responsibility, what category is the tropical cyclone, how strong is the earthquake in magnitude and intensity, are there evacuation areas open, are there enough family food packs or relief for affected communities, is there a secondary hazard that may worsen the situation.
To address the struggle to keep up in real time, public maximizes the use of different social media platforms. It doesn’t only serve as a source of information but also means of reporting significant events and even a platform to ask for help or call for rescue.
Government agencies, particularly those who are front-liners for disaster response, maximize the use of social media to ensure that the people are informed, prepared, and safe during disasters. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) promotes the use of unified hashtags so that netizens are able to keep up with the needed information before, during, and after an emergency situation.
Although social media is seen as the fastest, most accessible, user-friendly, and cheapest way of advocating DRRM for resilience, it also equates accountability. The freedom to use such means responsibility. With the proliferation of fake news or satirical information, Internet users are highly advised to be vigilant; as they say, think before you click.