SOS -- Self-Organization for Survival: Introducing fairness in emergency communication to save lives
Communication is crucial when disasters isolate communities of people and rescue is delayed. Such delays force citizens to be first responders and form small rescue teams. Rescue teams require reliable communication, particularly in the first 72 hours, which is challenging due to damaged infrastructure and electrical blackouts. We design a peer-to-peer communication network that meets these challenges. We introduce the concept of participatory fairness: equal communication opportunities for all citizens regardless of initial inequality in phone battery charge. Our value-sensitive design approach achieves an even battery charge distribution across phones over time and enables citizens to communicate over 72 hours. We apply the fairness principle to communication in an adapted standard Barabasi-Albert model of a scale-free network that automatically (i) assigns high-battery phones as hubs, (ii) adapts the network topology to the spatio-temporal battery charge distribution, and (iii) self-organizes to remain robust and reliable when links fail or phones leave the network. While the Barabasi-Albert model has become a widespread descriptive model, we demonstrate its use as a design principle to meet values such as fairness and systemic efficiency. Our results demonstrate that, compared to a generic peer-to-peer mesh network, the new protocol achieves (i) a longer network lifetime, (ii) an adaptive information flow, (iii) a fair distribution of battery charge, and (iv) higher participation rates. Hence, our protocol, Self-Organization for Survival ('SOS'), provides fair communication opportunities to all citizens during a disaster through self-organization. SOS enables participatory resilience and sustainability, empowering citizens to communicate when they need it most.