Perhaps it's still a pipe dream, but according to this article published on Quartz, the possibility of tablet computers as low as $25 each is less than 12 months away. While the article in question primarily focuses on the international impact in countries such as India, Thailand, and China, the practical applications would be profound on bridging the digital divide that still impacts many communities. This divide is particularly true for emergency notifications. Specifically, emergency managers in communities of all sizes and shapes sit at a crossroads where a significant portion of their community have shifted to sending and receiving information through digital methods (ex: social media and text messages), while other components still utilize (and expect) traditional methodologies such as television, radio, and print media. But with limited resources, how do emergency managers maximize their efforts?
Traditionally, there have been a variety of hurdles toward full digital adoption including comfort with technology, infrastructure availability, and device speed and functionality. Starting in reverse order, this type of low cost (nearly disposable) device will nearly eliminate this consideration. Even for those uninterested, well meaning friends and family may purchase them and force the consideration of adoption. As for infrastructure, Pew Internet has reported that broadband internet adoption is approaching 70% with only 3% of Americans utilizing dial-up internet at home. Likewise, many others are utilizing mobile devices and cellular plans to access web-based information on the go. While comfort with technology is a person-by-person issue, saturating communities with low cost devices and easy access will push this limitation to its limits as well.
When (not if) the scales tip toward nearly full mobile utilization, emergency managers can begin to refocus limited resources on leveraging these devices to their full potential and possibility. So perhaps next year, the emergency management community can give thanks for the widespread development (and hopefully) integration of low-cost devices that will further improve emergency notification. If not, we can keep dreaming until it does.