The Road Safety Journalism Fellowship Program has mentored 21 journalists in the Philippines.
“If you’re in a situation in NLEX or SLEX or let’s say Star Toll or a flyover,” asks Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary Elvira Medina, ”how can you tell where you are?”
Behind her question is a haunting fact: some 7,000 die in the country each year and thousands more are injured because of road crashes, according to the World Health Organization.
“How would you know your location if you are in the middle of a superhighway?”
A new mobile application unveiled by DOTr at a road safety initiatives forum Nov. 27 attempts to solve the problem, and automates the process using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.
Called DOTr 7890, its name taken from the department’s hotline number, the app allows victims and witnesses of crashes, especially those injured, to easily report their locations to authorities in just a few clicks.
“Many of our (responding) agencies will ask you, ‘Can you tell us where you are? What is your location?’” Medina says.
“We do not need to do that anymore. (The app) will tell us where you are,” adds the 72-year-old Medina, who led in the development DOTr 7890, fusing her insights as a road safety advocate with her experience in animation and information technology.
The app features a “Help!” button which opens the camera of phone it is installed, allowing users to take photos or videos of their surroundings and the situation they would like to make a complaint about, from road crashes to smoke belching.
“Even a plane crash,” quips Medina.
After the photo or video is taken, users will be asked to supply a short title and description of the situation, with location automatically determined by the app through phone’s GPS service.
The user’s report then goes into an internal dashboard managed by the DOTr, which will send it to an organization nearest the area to respond.
“Our coordinating agencies like Red Cross and other agencies, our firefighters, if they know you are in a situation, the nearest person to you will be responding,” Medina says.
An SOS ticket number is also given for each report sent, which a sender may use to follow up on their reported case.
Besides the “Help!” button, DOTr 7890 also feeds users with a stream of live updates from Facebook and Twitter pages of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority for updates on car coding, road closure and road crashes; the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration for weather alerts; the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council for flood warnings; and the DOTr itself.
Developed by a team of five information technicians just this year, DOTr 7890 is available for free download, albeit with some operational limitations, on iOS and Android mobile devices.
DOTr is set to expand its network infrastructure in the first half of 2019, and plans to work by then on making the app more widely known through campaigns as well.
Medina proudly says the with DOTr 7890, her department “has arrived in the 21st century.”