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In The Event Of An App

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As Hurricane Irene rolls through the United States' east coast, social media kicks into action. Updates on Twitter are helping CNN and other radio and television news channels supplement their reporting with details on what's really happening to people. Eyewitness reports on CNN's "Open Story" is calling in updates from places where the storm has hit.
But as has become the norm now, apps have also sprung up around the event on practically all operating systems for smartphones: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows 7. Some of the apps are trackers, giving up-to-the-minute updates on various storm parameters and movement. HurricaneHD is one of these. Another is RadarScope. Some apps have alerts and advisories. A few, like Disaster Caster, have disaster related plans for individuals to use. The Weather Channel app, of course, has everything, including videos, survival tips, and data. PC Magazine has quickly created a round-up of these.
Click To View Enlarged ImageI am amazed however, to find that these apps are paid, one of them costing as much as $10, which is more than I paid for an entire word processing application on the iPad. While I think it's perfectly in order for developers who make apps to get money for their trouble, surely apps around natural disasters and other such events shouldn't be used to make money. I was also shocked to find there were hurricane related games popping up. I suppose one may argue that there's no harm in entertaining yourself if you're nervously waiting for the storm to hit, or indeed are stranded with not much to do. However, as they will say in the US, the jury is out on that one.
With advanced feature phones and smartphones penetrating rural areas (over 7 million) at high speed, it would be good to see apps coming up when there are problems like riots, floods or disease outbreaks in rural or coastal areas. They would make equal sense for the metros as well, of course. It would all depend on whether the cellular towers hold up and in fact whether they're there in the first place, but it's worth even in times such as the post-monsoon dengue epidemics.
I was interested to find, however, that some Anna Hazare apps have also come up. And that includes games, such as Angry Birds adaptation Angry Anna. You can guess who the birds and pigs are. There are several others, including one that says "Get the Lokpal Bill in 1 minute". On the serious side, India Against Corruption also has an app, a trend I rather like as it can take the media out of the equation.

Mala Bhargava is a personal technology writer and media professional. Contact her at mala at pobox dot com and @malabhargava on Twitter

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