More than 4 million people have been displaced by the catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines last year.
The innovative SMS service allows Filipino families to take the search for missing relatives into their own hands, through a simple text message.
Today, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC, news, filings), Smart, and REFUNITE announced the launch of a new family tracing and reconnection service in the Philippines. The new SMS service, the first of its kind in Asia, will soon deliver hope to Filipino families separated by Typhoon Haiyan. The typhoon hit the Philippines in November 2013, causing large-scale damage and displacement. Nearly a year after Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons on record in recent years, the UNHCR estimates there are still around 4 million displaced persons in the Visayas region.
REFUNITE (www.refunite.org ) is a mobile and web platform that empowers families to search for missing relatives by sending an SMS through any mobile and web-enabled device. More than 350,000 people have already registered on the global platform.
With support from Ericsson and Smart, the Philippines' leading wireless services provider, the mobile service will soon be accessible to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. By the end of 2014, families will be able to search, reconnect, and communicate with missing loved ones in the aftermath of Haiyan. This will also benefit Filipino victims of emergencies and disasters in the future.
Smart will create awareness on the REFUNITE family reconnection platform through SMS campaigns and/or cell broadcasts. The joint response will be piloted in Tacloban City, which was among those hardest-hit by Typhoon Haiyan, and then scaled to other regions.
Orlando B. Vea, Chief Wireless Advisor of Smart, says: "This is an innovative mobile service that is very relevant to the challenges that we face in the Philippines. Every year, natural and man-made disasters displace people and separate family members. An SMS-based service that enables people to search for their missing loved ones will be very useful. That is why we are happy to work with our partners to bring this service to the Philippines."
Sam Saba, Ericsson Head of the Southeast Asia and Oceania region, says: "We continue to seek new ways to leverage technology for good. This new partnership will aid the displaced Filipino population, and bring them closer to their goal of reconnecting with lost loved ones."
Christopher Mikkelsen, co-founder of REFUNITE, says: "Everyone has the right to know where their family is. The Philippines experiences around 20 typhoons each year. Our goal is to leverage new technology to bring separated families back in touch."
NOTES TO EDITORS
Refugees United (REFUNITE) is a technology-based nonprofit organization that connects families separated by war, conflict and natural disaster. REFUNITE serves the world's 52 million forcibly displaced people. The platform can be accessed through mobile and web, and is supported by a coalition of mobile operators in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. www.refunite.org.
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About Smart Communications
Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) is the Philippines' leading wireless services provider with 53.7 million subscribers on its GSM network as of end-June 2014. Smart is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Philippines' leading telecommunications carrier, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT). Smart has built a reputation for innovation, having introduced world-first wireless offerings such as Smart Money, Smart Load, Smart Padala, and the Netphone. For more information, please visit us at smart.com.ph, like our page at Facebook.com/Smart Communications and follow us at @SmartCares.
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