Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen (Flinders University) has found a new software program. This program allows user`s phones to communicate if normal phone lines are down. Due to the program, Dr. Gardner-Stephen earned a place in the finals of an international competition.
Dr. Gardner-Stephen is one of 11 finalists who took part in the Ashoka Changemakers Citizen Media Competition. He developed the Serval Project in response to the destructive 2010 Haiti earthquake. There were nearly 500 entrants from all over the world and he could beat the fields of their projects.
The Serval Project is able to create a virtual network. Mobile phones can work where traditional mobile phone coverage does not exist or has been injured or destroyed.
People can make calls by “bouncing” off other devices that carry software in a distance of approximately 100 metres. Using the Serval system people won`t need to rely on conventional phone towers.
To give a start to the network, only two phones are needed and each phone can share the technology at any time, without any operating costs or start-up.
Dr. Gardner-Stephen said that it was great to see their international recognition increasing and he felt fantastic, taking part in the finals of a global competition.
He said:”It is a great opportunity for us to have partners all over the world. Different universities, entities, social action groups and not-for-profit groups see the value in our actions and the Serval Project became the leader of technology in this area. The project was considerebly suppoted by the Shuttleworth Foundation in South Africa, that granted USD400,000.”
As Dr. Gardner-Stephen said “The software not only gives the opportunity to make free calls, but also to share crucial information (maps, files, data of a disaster) and it is expected to be available for public by August 2012.”
“In case of an earthquake, a person can use the map to register the location of a damaged building, water and food supplies or people who need help and this information can appear on the maps of user`s phones who is running the software. It is very usefull to know fast that your close people are fine and be able to help the other.”
Dr. Gardner-Stephen also said that the sortware could be applied remote and rural communitis. For instance, it can allow friends who travel in the outback to communicate for free, calling each other from car to car.
“We already have started to work in the outback areas to test the technology and we are able to provide remote communities with intrenet access and mobile phones. We are sure that if we can assist people in making free calls, transfering files and sending text messages, we also will be able to improve their quality of life and economic situation.”
Ashoka Changemakers Citizen Media Competition voting ends on November 23.