Abstract: International organisations have acknowledged that providing information to and communicating with communities affected by disasters should be considered as an integral part of the humanitarian aid. Yet little is known on the information and communication needs of the population during the disaster reconstruction phase. This paper presents a case study of the information and communication needs of the population and the role of social media during the reconstruction process after the earthquake that struck Emilia-Romagna (Northern Italy) in 2012.
Data was collected through field notes and a multiple choices questionnaire distributed online and by hand to community-based groups. Results show that the most sought information concerns housing and infrastructure reconstruction, funds/refunds, business recovery and damage assessment and that city councils and regional council are considered as the main source of the information. Communication channels used to search for reconstruction-related information vary between online and offline respondents. Social media technology is used by citizens affected as a platform to read and share recovery information and post queries rather than as an engagement tool with recovery agencies. Main barriers to engagement are lack of trust towards the authorities and the belief that authorities do not use social media to communicate with citizens. In this context, community-based groups, especially those supported by social media, play an important role in sharing recovery-related information to other residents, clarifying legal acts and regulations and providing informational support to the affected population.
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