THAILAND: Social Media Enlightens Locals who were Left in the Dark

ELIZABETH NAAI WRITES – On Tuesday, May 21st Thailand’s largest blackout to date engulfed fourteen southern provinces, including major business industries and tourist destinations in Hat Yai, Koh Sumai, and Phuket. After losing power at 6:30 p.m., many residents and businesses did not recover electricity until 9:30 p.m. that night.

Because southern Thailand lacks the energy plants needed to sustain itself, the central region provides power to the southern region through a transmission cable between Ratchaburi and Bang Saphan. Officials of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) noted a faulty high voltage line as the cause.

While the blackout created the perfect storm to address energy issues, social media’s role within disasters has also taken prominence at the discussion table.

People swarmed outside public phones during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In response, South Korea’s NHN Corp created LINE, a call and messaging app free of charge. With 150 million worldwide users, 15 million of them in Thailand, it is the number one free app in Southeast Asia. The app’s photo and video features aided police reports from different provinces and communication with local police and Bangkok authorities. Journalists posted witness accounts and details on social media sites. Residents used them to follow the investigation and to contact family and aid. LINE empowered Thais during the blackout, but simultaneously raises the question, with only 18 million of the 66 million population connected to social media, how will information be disseminated en masse in future situations?


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