you're trying to coordinate the massive humanitarian response to the
Haiti earthquake - getting vital supplies to Haitians trying to survive
and rebuild their shattered lives. Yet you're constrained by the
crippled communications network that, like so many other services,
crumbled just two weeks ago.
This was the challenge faced by the
members of NetHope, a collaboration of 28 of the world's leading
humanitarian organizations as they scrambled to respond to the
earthquake in Port-au-Prince.
Building Critical Capacity
Just one week ago, Inveneo engineers Mark Summer and Andris Bjornson flew to Port-au-Prince with 1,500 pounds (3/4 ton!) of networking equipment to help NetHope's member organizations. In that short span of time we've already deployed long-distance WiFi links to ten relief organization locations, from Save the Children, to Care, to Concern Worldwide, and SOS Children's Village.
By Sunday, we should have 15 locations across Port-au-Prince linked in a reliable WiFi network, bringing high-speed Internet access - critical communication capacity - to relief agencies making a difference in Haitian lives.
Making a Direct Impact
SOS Children's Village focuses on the care of orphans and children of families in difficult circumstances. The staff, who come from all over Latin America, are preparing for many new arrivals. They currently have 150 children living at their site and are expecting to receive 300 more in the next few days. Trying to deal with this huge influx, the staff have welcomed Inveneo's response.
We created a 9km long WiFi link from the CHF headquarters, which has a 5.5 Mbps VSAT satellite connection, to the SOS Children's Village location using a Ubiquiti Rocket M5/Rocket Dish combination.
While this isn't a particularly long link - we've gone up to 25km in rural Africa - it was a feat in Port-au-Prince's cluttered urban environment and crowded radio spectrum. In fact, our WiFi antenna setup at SOS is quite significant. It's become a node to relay Internet access out to two other organizations - WorldVision and International Rescue Committee.
By living up to our mission of deploying sustainable ICT's to organizations in need, we have helped SOS Children's Village focus on their mission, serving the children of Port-au-Prince.
The Need is Great
This communication network cannot come fast enough for the people of Haiti. Here is Mark Summer's description of Port-au-Prince he's seen while driving between WiFi installations:
Driving around you see many collapsed or significantly damaged buildings, often right next to completely intact ones. Here in the hills the damage is significantly less then down in the center of PaP where in it seems that in many areas more then 50% of the buildings are gone or beyond repair. We've seen buildings that have had two or three stories and now no higher then 5 feet off the ground - it seems as if walls just turned into sand...
Yet life is slowing rebounding. People are eager to find real work. At Save the Children, Mark and Andris were assigned a helper - a young Haitian by the name of Peedra. He told them he just got employed last week, he used to work at a cybercafe and was eager to help and learn. Opportunity can arise out of the most unfortunate circumstances.
Expanding Our Impact
As we complete the initial NetHope network, we're receiving requests for assistance from other organizations in Haiti to rebuild and expand their ICT infrastructure. Haitian ICT entrepreneurs are also eager to build their own skills, and participate in the reconstruction of their country.
This is an opportunity to increase our impact, help Haitians rebuild their businesses, and build lasting capacity in Haiti by expanding our innovative technology model into the country.
You can stay involved in these efforts by following us in real-time via RSS, Twitter, or Facebook.
Please Support Our Response
We also hope you'll join NetHope, the EKTA Foundation, Aruba Networks, the Orr Foundation, Steve Okay and Andrea Longo, and many of your friends and colleagues in supporting Inveneo's Haiti response.
We are appealing for donations to cover the basic costs associated with this expansion of our Haiti relief efforts, including equipment, logistics and on the ground expenses. Please consider donating to Inveneo using PayPal or Google Checkout.
Inveneo is a US-based 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization. If you are a US resident, and donate before February 28th, your donation may be tax deductible for the 2009 tax year.
The Inveneo Team