All eyes were on Haiti after a massive earthquake rattled Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. The already poor infrastructure crumbled, leaving the people of Haiti reeling with severe physical and emotional loss. Meeting basic needs and finding meaningful work soon became even more challenging to a populace where more than two thirds of the workforce does not have a formal job.
NetHope recently launched an appeal to support its member organizations responding to the severe outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented in terms of the number of cases, deaths and its geographical spread. NetHope’s main focus is to assist its NGO member organizations and other responders with information and communication technology (ICT) aspects of the response.
NetHope supporter Intel announced a new public-private partnership called the Women and the Web Alliance during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The partnership aims to introduce more than 600,000 Kenyan and Nigerian young women to the Internet and engage them in using it as a tool for social and economic empowerment.
News reports about the problem of human trafficking—the illegal trading of human beings—in Albania have been so shocking over the years, they seem like science fiction. To make better use of technology to change this harsh reality, NetHope developed an anti-trafficking Android app for worldwide use in partnership with World Vision and the Vodafone Foundation with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding. NetHope chose Albania for the app’s first implementation under the local name “Raporto-Shpeto” (“Report-Save Life”).
Almost every stakeholder in the development community believes in the potential of technology to address these problems — that if we could figure out how to best leverage the power of technology to confront these challenges, we might be able to implement more effective interventions, gain a deeper understanding of the interrelated challenges, and develop sustainable long-term approaches that build resilience and empower local communities.
Information Communication Technologies (ICT) solutions have experienced incredible momentum since the initial Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) conference several years ago. It has transformed from a concept into real solutions being implemented by organizations across the development space.
Much more quickly than I anticipated, my first month with NetHope has come to a close. It has been an amazing month, filled with meetings with members, donors and partners. Learning about the work that our members are doing – and how NetHope is supporting their missions – has been both humbling and inspiring.
Through these meetings, a number of common themes have emerged. I spent a few minutes discussing these on the February member call, but wanted to provide a little more context around what I’ve heard. No doubt, these themes, along with the priorities that the Board has established for me, will shape my work in the coming months. And, no doubt, these themes will continue to develop as I continue to meet with members and our stakeholders in the coming month. But here’s a recap of what I’ve heard to date:
When disaster strikes, food, clean water and shelter for those affected are always hailed as top priority. While there is no argument that those basic life-sustaining necessities need to be quickly met, technologies can be overlooked as highest-ranking essentials, even though it often helps victims find aid, shelter or relatives in an emergency; restored communication is paramount to emergency response.
No matter what kind of relief our member organizations are bringing to a disaster area – water, food, shelter, medicine – they require access to reliable information about the situation in the affected areas to make decisions about how much aid is needed and where it needs to be distributed. This requires access to important data. In order to share and receive that information, we need to have a way to communication with each other and with affected population.
In Tacloban, everything was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan: raised houses, destroyed bridges, blocked roads, disrupted communications; and tens of thousands of people were affected, and needed help.
The international rescue teams who arrived on the archipelago soon after the disaster struck were met with major logistical challenges, as they tried to access areas that had been isolated by the devastation. NGOs needed help that could fly.
For many years, it was thought that cloud solutions were out of reach for those working in the developing world. Because many organizations lack the basic connectivity that users would need to access their applications and data, it seemed improbable that it would catch on quickly. However, I’ve been struck by how quickly various innovations are coming together simultaneously making cloud solutions well within reach – and highly desirable – for most organizations working in the developing world today. With today’s announcement from Microsoft that Office 365 for Nonprofits is now available to NGOs worldwide as a donation, it’s likely to become even more appealing.