GUEST COLUMNIST: Don’t take pictures, call 114 to save a life

Monday May 07 2018

Technology is advancing. But the sad reality is that people are getting more attached to what’s happening on internet than what may be happening in their own lives or going around them. They are so engrossed into the cyberspace.

Let’s look at this scenario, where people taking pictures or videos of accident victims who, at times may be at the point of losing their lives. How is this? Smartphone addicts may not agree with me that this is not acceptable. But, imagine someone taking a selfie during or after an emergency, even with bloodstains right on the face.

Before the era of smartphones, such scenarios were unthinkable but now they are real. A motor traffic accident occurs somewhere in the city, a person is in pain on the road; for almost 20 minutes. But, passers-by are taking photos of the helpless person.

None of them takes the initiative to help until the police arrives. Those currently dealing with emergency care will agree with me that this shouldn’t be happening any more if society decided to embrace technology in a more sensible manner.

Change in mind-set

We, in Mwanza, are taking the step. Through Tanzania Rural Health Movements (TRHM), we are now working to see our society use smartphones to save lives in emergency situations, instead of taking pictures of victims. It requires mind-set change.


In Mwanza city, fire fighters, bodaboda riders and other volunteers are now getting on board with initiatives put in place by TRHM since the year 2015, as the move to ensure proper use of communications technology during emergencies.

We are now in a campaign, with a Kiswahili slogan: “Ukiona tukio la Dharura, Usipige picha, piga simu namba 114 kwa msaada zaidi,” to remind people to use their phones wisely in cases of emergencies such as road crashes, fire outbreaks and abrupt conditions like heart attack.

First responders under the Tanzania Rural Health Movement initiative in Mwanza Region, take part in a simulation exercise.

People are being reminded to call 114 for quick and free help; instead of taking photos with their smartphones to share on their social media pages.

How it works

We are using software. Upon calling 114, the dispatcher receives the call and dispatches emergency as SMS (short messaging service) through Beacon Software which works by relaying SMS from the scene of an emergency to trained first responders throughout the community.

The software enables the nearest available emergency care providers to quickly locate, treat, and transport emergency victims to local hospitals.

TRHM recruited first responders from the community through training on basic first aid, equipping them with medical supplies together with promoting proper use of the 114 through different ways such as posters, advertisement, use of social media and campaigns.

We are seeing some positive results. To a good extent, this technology has managed to save lives of many victims since it was put in place.

The efficiency of the service has increased more from the day when a three wheeler motor bicycle Ambulance (Bajaj) was introduced as it enables the first aid service providers to reach victims within a 15 km radius around Mwanza city.

The service will be more productive when whole of the Mwanza community responds positively towards any emergency incident witnessed.

It’s time now for the society at large to change their perceptions on the ways communication technologies are being used. If we do this, lives will be saved, technology use will make more sense.