– ITU-Reporter

ITU FOCUS is on last-mile connectivity to ensure warnings reach at-risk populations in time for informed action, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, the ITU sec.-gen. said.

Published May 29, 2023 – Vol. 14 No. 20 — World Radiocommunication Week


CAP Protocol


Ten-Fold Return on Investment Seen as Possible in Nations’ Drive for Early Warning Systems


Saving lives and livelihoods, and an expected healthy return on investment, are driving the bid to put a 2027 deadline on implementing use of early warning systems by least developed and small island nations to bolster safety of at-risk communities in times of possible disaster, and which leverages the nearly 20-year-old common alerting protocol that became an international standard 15 years ago, sources variously indicated at WMO’s top policy setting meeting 22 May to 2 June.

Early warnings can be the difference between life and death, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, the ITU sec.-gen. said during speeches from high-ranking officials during the week of May 22.  She referred to recent catastrophic weather events in Europe and Asia.

Officials promoted implementation of an initiative on early warning for all at the country level.  The initiative aims to spur early warning systems, the WMO website said.  Early warning systems save lives, reduce economic losses and provide a nearly 10-fold return on investment, it said.  Major gaps remain, especially in small islands and developing countries, it said.

ITU leads the warning dissemination and communication pillar of the initiative, Bogdan-Martin said, together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the WMO, the U.N. Development Programme, the International Organisation for Migration, and the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership.  The other pillars are: Disaster risk knowledge and management; Detection, observation, monitoring, analysis, and forecasting, and; Preparedness and response capabilities.

ITU’s focus is on last-mile connectivity to ensure warnings reach at-risk populations in time for action, Bogdan-Martin said.  ITU promotes “a multi-channel, people-centered approach” for diverse, at-risk communities, she said.  Alerts are sent over radio, TV, social media, sirens, mobile devices and by other means, she said.

The common alerting protocol (CAP) ensures alerts disseminated across multiple channels are consistent, Bogdan-Martin said.  Use of community-based infrastructures and locally-led feedback mechanisms can boost comprehension and spur informed action, she said.

Mobile early-warning systems will be crucial to meet the initiative’s objectives, Bogdan-Martin said.   New and emerging technologies, and alerting services provided via satellite systems “are also exciting new opportunities,” she said.

We look forward to mobilizing ITU’s unique membership” of governments and the private sector “to be able to explore and to build on existing innovative solutions to bring connectivity, and to bring the benefits of these systems to the last mile,” Bogdan-Martin said referring also to leveraging artificial intelligence “to scale the effectiveness of early warning systems.”

Bodgan-Martin described some challenges and opportunities in the initiative.  Only one-third of populations in least developed countries (LDCs) are online, she said.  Less than one-half of LDCs, and one-third of small-island developing countries, have reported the existence of multi-hazard early warning systems, she said.

ITU-T first gave the CAP protocol an international stamp 15 years ago.  The spec was revised in 2014.  More than one-third of the 27 countries in the WMO regional association for North and Central America and the Caribbean have not begun to implement CAP, a 22 May 2023 WMO presentation to the congress said.  The rate is the highest of the six associative WMO regions, it showed.  Nearly one-half of the 37 U.N.-designed small island developing states are located in or nearby the Caribbean Sea.

Separately, a 2022 executive action plan for the early warnings for all initiative called for initial new targeted investments of U.S.$ 3.1 billion between 2023 and 2027, a November 2022 U.N. News story said.