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Matt Altman: Supporting Refugees with Wi-Fi

Challenges are what make each project fun.

May 3, 2016

By Matt Altman, Cisco TacOps

There’s nothing more rewarding than using my skills to help people, and that’s what I love about working with NetHope in my role on Cisco’s Tactical Operations (TacOps) team.

TacOps specializes in providing free connectivity in places affected by disasters. We partner frequently with NetHope to install networks in places from Kenya to Nepal. For the last two weeks, I’ve joined NetHope in Greece to provide Wi-Fi in refugee camps. As lead architect, I work with engineers from Google and NetHope to survey sites, install networks, and expand access as far into the camps as we can.

Setting up Wi-Fi at Nea Kavala

This connectivity project is different from any other I’ve worked on, because we’re supporting the local population. In a typical natural disaster, our networks primarily help the NGOs who are responding to do their jobs. Here in Greece, on the other hand, the refugees themselves also need Wi-Fi connectivity. It has been particularly gratifying to see our direct impact on their lives, as many camp residents rely on the Internet to seek asylum and communicate with family members.

Like every project I’ve worked on in my 18 years at Cisco, this one has its unique challenges. Strong gusts blew through Northern Greece last week and brought down the copper DSL lines in some of the camps. We’ve also had occasional technical issues which can mean late nights testing equipment in my hotel room.

Challenges are what make each project fun. Each time I finish my work and fly back to my family in Florida, I feel satisfied knowing that I’ve done something worthwhile, and that I’ve had some adventure along the way.

This post is part of an ongoing series of stories from NetHope's work in Greece to provide connectivity to refugees.

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