The value of government mandated location-based services in emergencies in Australia
The adoption of mobile technologies for emergency management has the capacity to save lives. In Australia in February 2009, the Victorian Bushfires claimed 173 lives, the worst peace-time disaster in the nation’s history. The Australian government responded swiftly to the tragedy by going to tender for mobile applications that could be used during emergencies, such as mobile alerts and location services. These applications have the ability to deliver personalized information direct to the citizen during crises, complementing traditional broadcasting mediums like television and radio. Indeed governments have a responsibility to their citizens to safeguard them against both natural and human-made hazards and today national security has grown to encapsulate such societal and economic securitization. However, some citizens and lobby groups have emphasized that such breakthrough technologies need to be deployed with caution as they are fraught with ethical considerations, including the potential for breaches in privacy, security and trust. The other problem is that real world implementations of national emergency alerts have not always worked reliably and their value has come into question as a result. This paper provides a big picture view of the value of government-mandated location-based services during emergencies, and the challenges ensuing from their use.