PEOPLE check their mobile phones for almost everything. The time, location and destination, messages, news, appointments, reminders, notes, movies, and many more.
It isn’t a surprise then that the public would like to see information about the weather and the possibility of flashfloods in their cities on their phones. When Cebu was hit by heavy downpour and flashfloods last Friday night, people turned to their mobile phones but did not get complete and accurate reports on the weather except for what the news sites reported.
Social network like Facebook and Twitter became venues for the posting of photos and video but there was no advisory as to how much more rain would fall that night and whether the waters in neighborhoods would subside and at what time.
Government offices whose mandate includes giving vital and urgent information to the public must have a mobile application or app. This is now a requirement as more than half of the Filipinos have smartphones that can connect to the Internet and websites and mobile apps.
The mobile apps would be putting weather information literally in the hands of the people. During this rainy season and time of La Nina, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration ( Pagasa) is one such government agency that must have a mobile app to inform people about sudden weather changes, amount of rainfall, and the expected time of the downpour.
The Pagasa announced last June it has upgraded its mobile app. It said the app is available for Android phones and may be downloaded from the Google Play Store. I downloaded the 3.56 mb file but it took almost 15 minutes to be saved to my smartphone. When, finally, installation was completed, the app opened to a menu showing the time, my current location, and the weather of the city nearest to my location.
A click on the menu button at the top left showed the following items: general weather, flood information, warnings and advisories, tropical cyclone warning, social (for links to social networks), and notifications. General weather listed current weather, daily forecast, key cities, what’s the condition in tourist destinations, in local cities, for Asian cities and a weekly outlook. The section on flood information contains advisories, bulletin, and dam status. The social link does not work, although it has pages for Facebook, Twitter and podcast.
A different app, Pagasa news, had been downloaded many more times than the first one and it got saved to my phone in nine minutes or a few minutes less than the first one. The opening page said it was getting the latest forecast for my area, then the page froze. It didn’t move, it didn’t update. What information I was to get never came out on my phone.
The Project Noah app of the Department of Science and Technology had a faster download and carried much more content, including maps, than the other two. But the content had plenty of technical terms and was not easy to understand.
The weather bureau sees the need to have a mobile application by having up to three on the Google store. No matter how many apps the Pagasa has, these would be useless if they were not opening, were hard to understand or they did not have the complete information the public needed. (firstname.lastname@example.org)