SEOUL, May 23 (Korea Bizwire) – When the passenger ferry Sewol, was about to sink in the morning of April 16, high school students in the ferry made several calls to the police for rescue. But the coast guard spent precious time to pinpoint where the ferry was, asking the students of the latitude and longitude of the accident location.
However, there was a smartphone app helping people report urgent situations to the police notifying the exact place and forms of disasters. The government lost the chance to save a lot more lives not publicizing the app widely.
In January last year, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport released the app called “Smart Rescue Team” enabling people to report various accidents with a few smartphone touches by the case of urgency. The reports can be received faster than phone calls or text messages.
In particular, the places of the reporters are automatically positioned by so that the police officers or firefighters can detect the exact place of the accidents. The app equipped with a function to make a direct report to the coast guard on “maritime accidents” or “maritime crimes” won the best prize in the public service sector category in the ICT ministry’s Best App Awards last year.
However, the app developed and praised by the government turned out useless at the ferry accident due to the lack of the publicizing efforts for the app.
According to the land ministry, some 50,000 smartphone users have downloaded the app. But the number is less than 1 percent compared to the tens of million smartphone users in Korea. The related government agencies responsible for public safety didn’t even know the existence of the app.
An official with the policy agency said, “I have never heard of the smartphone rescue app. There was no request for publicizing the app.” It seems there was no consultation or information sharing among government agencies.
On that matter, an official at the land ministry said, “We keep publicizing the app through various events and updating the contents of the app.”
Written by John Choi (firstname.lastname@example.org)