CeBIT 2011: Mobile networks key to Japanese disaster recovery

Improved ICT services and solar energy touted as ways forward for Japan

Building strong mobile networks and identifying alternative sources of energy are just some of the lessons Japanese authorities have learned in the wake of the deadly tsunami on March 11 this year.

Nomura Research Institute (NRI) corporate senior adviser, Sawaaki Yamada, told delegates at CeBIT in Sydney of the high human cost of the disaster - 440,000 people in eastern Japan were killed and 14,000 were still listed as missing as of May 2011.

The earthquake measured 9.0 on the Richter Scale and the subsequent tsunami brought down 33 per cent of fixed lines (1 million ) in the Tohoku region. Some 21 per cent of mobile base stations in Tohoku and Kanto base were affected.

The tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaging its cooling system. Subsequent explosions damaged three of the reactor buildings, impacting Japan's power supply and demand.

“The loss of power was a major cause but severance of cables only counted for 10 per cent of damage,” Yamada said of the subsequent communications and power problems.

“Fixed line, mobile and mobile packets were restricted because it was 50-60 times normal traffic.”

Residents turned other means of communication, such as message boards and social media for help.

See photos and all the action from the event.

Life has slowly returned to normal in east Japan, and Yamada said the NRI and Japanese government have learned several key lessons from the disaster.

“There is a strong need for mobile networks which can cope with high levels of traffic because [there was] a 50-60 fold increase on ordinary demand following the quake,” he said. “Email was effective, along with the disaster message board system. We are now considering the launch of a message service based on audio files.”

Authorities are also considering more diverse power sources such as solar energy and wind power.

“Power outages were a major cause of failures so we should think about solar energy, wind power as well as rechargable batteries," Yamada said, adding that being able to respond to emergencies in a creative way - such as using social media - was important.

“We need to share disaster recovery information with Australia to ensure that we are all better prepared for disasters in the future.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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