An SMS-Based Flood Warning System for Developing Countries: the Case of Laos

Author: Saysoth Keoduangsine

Keoduangsine, Saysoth, 2016 An SMS-Based Flood Warning System for Developing Countries: the Case of Laos, Flinders University, School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics

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National disasters such as floods are a worldwide phenomenon occurring frequently and lead to a huge loss of life and enormous economic cost. To minimise the impacts from floods, flood warning systems have been developed and applied around the globe. Developing countries were ranked at the top in the flood indices of the number of occurrences, people killed and affected, and economic damage.

A digital divide in communication technologies between developing and developed countries is still present. Mobile phone technologies are widely used in developing countries notably in the urban area but also the rural area, but there is a lack of Internet access. The availability of mobile phone technology in developing countries provides an opportunity of taking advantage for sharing flooding information that can be used as a part of flood warning systems.

The main purpose of this research was to investigate the feasibility of adopting SMS messages for a flood warning system in developing countries, the case study in Laos. In this study, a research model was developed, and surveys and a trial were conducted in the selected area in Laos. A closed question questionnaire was used to collect the required data and quantitative methods were used for data analysis.

Two preliminary surveys were conducted to evaluate the feasibility of adopting SMS messages for a flood warning system: the first survey with residents affected by annual floods in a selected area of Laos; and the second survey with flooding experts who worked or experienced with the current flood warning system. The findings of the surveys were used to compare perspectives of both residents and the flooding experts in relation to adopting and using SMS messages as part of a flood warning system in the case study area.

A research model (SMSTAM) was designed based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to test hypotheses to seek factors influencing the use of SMS messages in a flood warning system in the case study area. The data was collected randomly from 568 respondents, living in the case study area and those collected data were analysed based on statistical analysis including SPSS and AMOS for structural equation modelling.

A trial was carried out in which bulk SMS messages as real warnings which prepared and sent to residents, living in flood areas. The SMS messages for the trial were based on lessons learnt from previous studies such as appropriate message content, message size and message meaning. In this trial, the local language was used to send flood warnings to 116 residents simultaneously. Parameters analysed as part of the trial included transmission times, number of messages lost, message errors and awareness of residents to flood warnings.

Upon completing the trial, interviews were conducted to obtain feedback from those residents. The feedback assessed the appropriateness of the language of the warning and the response actions to the warning. The findings of the trial provided additional evidence and confirmed the findings from the surveys and the findings of the research model.

The findings from the two surveys, the research model test and the trial of the system confirmed that mobile phone technologies are widely available in the case study area in Laos in line with mobile phone penetration, as opposed to limited Internet access, as earlier expected. The findings of this study shows that beginning an SMS-based flood warning system in the case study area is currently unlikely to be successful due to low SMS usage resulting from the lack of local language installed in mobile phones and local language illiteracy of the residents. However, the study suggested that SMS-based flood warning through mobile phones has high potential, but installation of the local language on mobile phones ought to be encouraged and promoted.

Keywords: Developing country,Flood warning system,Laos, SMS-based

Subject: Computer Science thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics
Supervisor: Dr Robert Goodwin