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The Cables Binding Nonprofit Connectivity: Navigating the Intersection of Technology and Resilience

Physical outages are stark reminders of the broader vulnerabilities nonprofits face and the urgent need of a more resilient, inclusive digital world.

March 15, 2024

By Jean-Louis Ecochard, Global Head of Innovation, Senior Director for NetHope's Center for the Digital Nonprofit

Access to the internet is critical digital infrastructure for nonprofit organizations, enabling them to connect with communities and deliver essential programs. However, this connectivity, often reliant on intercontinental undersea cables and terrestrial links, faces vulnerabilities that can disrupt operations and hinder humanitarian efforts. Recent incidents highlight the delicate balance between technological advancement and the need for resilience within the nonprofit sector.

When undersea cables fail, entire regions, including the civil society organizations operating within them, can suffer the consequences. These disruptions not only impede access to vital resources but also hamper the delivery of humanitarian and conservation programs, significantly impacting the communities they serve.

The February incident involving multiple cable breaks in the Red Sea serves as a poignant example of the challenges faced by nonprofits. Allegedly caused by the bottom trawling of a ship anchor, this disruption affected internet traffic across Asia and Africa, underscoring the interconnected nature of our digital infrastructure.

Moreover, recent outages originating from the Ivory Coast further emphasize the dependency on physical cables for connectivity in Africa. With several nations reporting intense internet outages or severe network degradation, nonprofits are grappling with disrupted information flows, adding another layer of complexity to their work.

The reliance on cloud-based services exacerbates these challenges, particularly for organizations with data centers located outside the affected regions. Difficulty accessing these services further impedes the efforts of nonprofits, highlighting the need for resilient and inclusive digital infrastructure.

While cyber events often dominate discussions surrounding digital resilience, physical outages serve as stark reminders of the broader vulnerabilities faced by nonprofits. Advocating for robust and inclusive digital infrastructure is crucial to ensuring uninterrupted access to resources and services, ultimately supporting the impactful work of nonprofits worldwide.

In navigating the intersection of technology and resilience, nonprofits must prioritize proactive measures to mitigate the impact of disruptions. Investing in backup systems, advocating for policy reforms, bridging the new digital divides, and fostering collaboration within the sector are essential steps toward building a more resilient digital ecosystem. As we strive for a future where connectivity remains steadfast in the face of adversity, let us recognize the critical role nonprofits play in advocating for a more resilient and inclusive digital world. Together, we can collaborate toward a future where all communities have access to the resources and support they need to thrive.

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