A notable example of how to use technology in disaster management is the ERTZAINTZA app. It was created as a communication channel between citizens and the regional police of the Basque Country. The App’s development arose in response to the need to establish transparency policies. The APP facilitates new means of communication with the police through any mobile device and various channels such as SMS, email, telephone, or WhatsApp. The App’s objective is to strengthen citizen collaboration, developing a fast and reliable tool that allows communication with the ERTZAINTZA at any time and from any mobile device. This application has several functionalities. Firstly, it provides a fast and reliable source of information to the citizens. It also provides advice and information on security, news, and issues of citizens’ interests, both personal and administrative. Secondly, it promotes the interaction from the citizens to the ERTZAINTZA by allowing users to send photos, videos, and alerts about various incidents. In addition, the App can be used as a channel to show the degree of satisfaction of the citizens with the ERTZAINTZA. In this way, the application helps to improve social resilience by simultaneously acting on different aspects of risk management. On the one hand, it enhances the preparation of citizens by providing a reliable source of information. On the other hand, it facilitates reaching society and answering their needs, questions, and requests better.

The APP has proven to be a fast communication channel between the citizens and the ERTZAINTZA. For example, The ERTZAINTZA APP was the most-used channel during the pandemic in the Basque country.

Many citizens, including small businesses, used the application to stay informed of the regulations in force during the pandemic. An indicator of the excellent reception of this tool is the increase in users and communications by citizens. For example, in February 2020, the ERTZAINTZA received 261 communications from citizens; in November 2020, they received 28,385.

Despite the evidence that demonstrates the usefulness and effectiveness of this tool, there are still several questions to be answered. For example, would it be possible to transfer this tool to other contexts and problems? How can we enhance the benefits of this application? What are the main barriers that limit the total uptake of the application by citizens?

ENGAGE works closely with local authorities and first responders to answer these questions.

Authors: Eulalia Gómez & Sahar Elkady (Tecnun)