By Kristen Putch
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.
When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013, NetHope quickly issued an appeal to collect the crucial technologies needed to bring connectivity and communication to our 22 responding member organizations working to assist the over 13 million people affected, and an estimated 4.4 million displaced. Requested items included laptops, tablets, phones, two-way radios, solar panels, generators and Internet terminals.
Our partners quickly answered our call for support. Within a week, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), British Telecom, Dell, Salesforce, Iridium, IEC Telcom Group, Thurava, Microsoft and International Procurement Agency provided NetHope with 300 laptops, over 100 phones with SIM cards and airtime, software licenses, bandwidth and other data and communications resources, which allowed our member organizations to better coordinate relief efforts regarding shelter, water, supplies, ICT assessments, medical and families.
Cisco, Plantronics, Astrium, Palantir, DanOffice IT, SES, aSpeedcast, Intel Foundation, Direct Relief and iDirect also joined the effort, providing additional resources to our members as they continue to work in-country for the coming months.
In a region where over 1 million homes and an estimated 80 to 90 percent of schools were damaged or destroyed, the donations made by our partners have been critical to the emergency response work done by NetHope member organizations, and other responding NGOs, during the critical first few weeks. As our member organizations begin to transition their focus from relief to recovery, the systems and tools supplied by those initial contributions will continue to be positively affect the work in the months ahead, offering ongoing support to victims as they begin to rebuild their homes, communities and lives.
Since 2001, NetHope, an information technology consortium of 43 leading international non-governmental organizations, has helped relief groups serve millions of people in more than 180 countries. Through partnerships and collaboration with major technology companies, foundations and individuals, NetHope helps its member organizations better serve people in the most remote areas of the world.