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During major emergencies, the cell network breaks under too much voice traffic. SMS requires way less bandwidth. So, why not anticipate the next big outage and work with cell carriers to limit the cell network to sms traffic, thereby increasing capacity by 10x- 100x. This ties in with text to 911 idea someone submitted--which would be an essential component if authorities chose to throttle voice and video traffic.
Perhaps this is bigger than an app, but an app might be a part of it: let the citizens be able to deploy a Mesh Network of Wi-Fi access points that would join the city's emergency internet backbone or route around it if it is down. Ideally, we'd be able to re-purpose existing wi-fi hardware to do so. Wifi was a big part of relief in Haiti and it could be just as useful here for coordinating resources from the ground ...more »
what many ideas already posted point to and could use would be a two-way data gathering and dissemination system like NYC's 311. I laugh every time I see an ad for King Co's "Links by Zip" How archaic! We need 311 to digest the data. Then apps to interface with it.