Mobile phones and SMS can be great tools to help people with information or cash in emergencies. But they are just tools and should only be used, when they can be used responsibly and when it makes sense to use them.
To help organizations or activists decide, when to use SMS and how to use SMS in natural disasters, the GSM Association, which represents the interests of mobile phone providers worldwide, has recently published a draft “Code of Conduct for the Use of SMS in Natural Disaster” (PDF).
Seeing that the Qatar Foundation, where Patrick Meier is working these days, was involved in producing this document, it is no surprise that it is very useful and down to earth. I like particularly, that there is a very strong emphasis on not raising false expectations by setting up SMS systems without being able to follow up on requests. This lesson was hopefully learned in Haiti where multiple well meaning organizations had set up SMS systems without being able to do anything with the thousands of messages they got.
(h/t Anahi Ayala Iacucci)