4.3.1 Background Information
On 12th May 2008, at 2:28pm, the Szechuan earthquake, which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale, shook the entire Szechuan Province, a mountainous region in Western China. The quake's epicentre was located within Wenchuan Country, 80 kilometres west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital of Szechuan, with a depth of 19 kilometres. The surrounding area, such as Shanxi province, Gansu province and Chongqing city were also adversely affected by the large magnitude quake. Since the Great Szechuan Earthquake is often labelled as "China's deadliest natural disaster in a generation" (Dessianing, 2008), it has definitely garnered much media coverage throughout the world.
4.3.2 Importance of Information Communication Technology (ICT)
18.104.22.168 Within China
The internet was a very important tool for keeping track of the happenings during and after the Szechuan Earthquake. When the major disaster occurred, news about the disaster spreaded rapidly to many other countries around the world. The Chinese government acted immediately upon receiving the news of the earthquake and started to dispatch groups of people to carry out rescue operations. The network systems were not functioning as the earthquake had wrecked the fiber-optic cables required for the communication network to operate. Anxious friends and relatives were unable to contact their love ones from outside or within the earthquake stricken zone. It was noted by China Mobile that there was a great surge in the call volumes during the quake. In such situations are people able to fully realise the importance of ICT in our present society. Rescue operations were also slightly delayed as the rescue workers could not enter the site until they knew the situation in the zone and found it safe to enter. Hence, relevant Info-Communication authorities were rushed to the quake stricken site to fix the network systems as soon as possible. From this, it can be seen that ICT is very important as it is the main method of communication for people worldwide.
22.214.171.124 Outside China
Besides transmitting news to people within China, news was also transmitted to countries outside China. This was mainly done through the media and the Internet. Footages were sent to broadcasting stations all over the world and the news was broadcasted to the people of other countries. On the Internet realm, officials were able to release the statistical values with regards to the total number of casualties in the earthquake so that people could be frequently updated with the figures. The most recent statistical figures show that 46,240,000 people were affected by this natural disaster. Among this millions of people, 69,225 victims have perished while 17,923 people were reported missing. Furthermore, official websites have also published and declared that more than 4,800,000 people were made homeless due to the disaster.
ICT is also perceived to be useful in terms of publicity such as appeal for donations and help towards quake stricken victims. Charity organizations from all over the world such as Red Cross organized fund-raising activities and gala dinners, such as the special 4 hour programme on CCTV named "The Giving of Love". Famous Hong Kong celebrities such as And Lau and Jackie Chan took photos of the disaster zone and posted them up on their official websites and personal blogs to appeal to fans for donations. The media and the Internet played a great part in helping to appeal to the public to respond to pleas for donations.
From the above examples, it is a clear manifestation that news reports and media coverage on the earthquake were reported and published on the Internet almost instantaneously. Thus, it is evident that the existence of ICT has effectively made transmission of news very efficient.
4.3.3 Pitfall of Information Communication Technology (ICT)
Despite the various benefits that ICT can provide, there are also cases whereby people abuse the existence of such a technology to vent their frustrations or anger in a most inappropriate manner. After the earthquake, China declared three days of mourning in remembrance of the victims exactly one week after the quake took place. During that period of time, various online gaming websites were shut down to show respect to the dead during those three days. A teenage girl from Liaoning posted a video of herself on YouTube, a video sharing website, to voice out her displeasure against the idea of closing down the gaming sites during the mourning period. This was a very insensitive act and goes to show that ICT can also be abused and use in a manner that will cause problems to the society if the users of the Internet do not practice discretion.
Barboza. D (May 20, 2008). One week Later, a nation pauses to share its mourning and grief. The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2008 from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/world/asia/20china.html
Dessianing. A (2008). China stands still to remember quake victims, begins 3 days of national mourning. The China Post. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from http://www.chinapost.com.tw/china/national20news/2008/05/19/157161/China-stands.htm
Lu. A (May 18, 2008). Magnitude of SW China earthquake revised to 8.0. GOV.cn. Retrieved October 9. 2008 from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/world/asia/20china.html
Sina.comJuly (6, 2008). Wenchuan Di Zhen Yi Chao Cheng 69196 Ren Yu Nan,18379 Ren Shi Zong. Sina. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2008-07-06/162615881691.shtml
Sina.com(July 21, 2008). Ge Di Shang Wang Hui Zong. Sina. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from http://news.sina.com.cn/pc/2008-05-13/326/651.html
USGS (May 12, 2008). Magnitude 7.9 Eastern Sichuan, China. USGS. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/eqinthenews/2008/us2008ryan/#details
Picture courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Sichuan_earthquake_wenchuan.JPG