Friday, July 28, 2006

Mobile phone: tool for disaster coordination and abuse

Mobile phones are truly important in times of crisis. Take the case of our OFW evacuation in Lebanon. Without the mobile phone, we can be certain that gathering them would not have been that fast. It is also estimated that there are around 30,000 Filipinos there.

Other countries, like Australia, are scrambling also in getting their citizens out there and things don't seem to be turning out well. There's also a disadvantage for citizens of rich countries to be in a war zone as they tend to be more prone to kidnapping or hostage for ransom.

In Cebu, companies like PLDT and InTouch Communications have partnered with OWWA to provide for families to contact their OFW loved ones in Lebanon. Lito Gutierrez of Global Forum also talked about the importance of equipping outgoing overseas contract workers to the Middle East a VOIP phone. Microsoft is about to do this soon with OWWA as they will equip outgoing OFWs with a Microsoft Windows 5.0 Mobile Phone that shall work in wi-fi areas.

Although on the other hand, it is sad to see that there are entities and individuals who had no heart in scamming their fellow countrymen gullible enough to fall prey into it. Telcos should create posters regularly that can be seen in all their retailer outlets to spread the knowledge on text scams or perhaps a monthly text alert about it. On the more proactive level, set up a procedure that a cellphone owner can do it as soon as he or she receives a potential text scam. Of course, this would need tight coordination with the police. In the end, we need solution and action where there is a clear process on how the mobile phone text scammers can be captured. There are now anti-theft services though being offered to combat this. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has released a policy for the reporting and handling of spam complaints. A Text Spam Committee was also created in the process who will handle all complaints. Some local government police units, like Marikina, are also adopting the use of text messaging as an anti-crime tool.

In the recent Senate hearing on the 2006 nursing board exam leakage, pictures taken from the mobile phone was also used to demonstrate that there's indeed anomalies committed by the party accused.

It is estimated that there are 37 million mobile phone users today. The Philippines was also dubbed as the text messaging capital of the world as it processes more than 1 billion text messages a day. As of end-June 2006, Globe Telecomm has a total of 13.9 million client base. Smart with 16.4 million and Talk 'N Text with 6.1 million. With the popularity of 3G and wireless Internet, the mobile phone modems are also making a huge comeback. What makes the mobile phone both a tool for productivity and scamming is its relevance to the lives of Filipinos today. The Philippines is the first to implement a mobile wallet scheme that allows a person to transfer money or prepaid credits to another phone and has served well those who can't afford or not qualified to avail of traditional banking services. More than 7 million Filipinos are now using this service.

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