Communications in a Crisis
Call it hope in a briefcase.
In the event of a major natural or man-made disaster, a region's or even an entire country's communications system can be knocked out. For first-response relief workers this means no ability to coordinate the crucial early efforts to save lives. But these days, the first wave of relief workers arrive with a 4lb briefcase that sets up in twenty minutes to become a fully operative, solar powered, internet-based command center, ready to transmit voice, data and pictures to the rest of the field team and the rest of the world.
This briefcase, officially known as the Network Relief Kit is the product of Nethope, a consortium of the world’s leading technology companies and the world’s major relief organizations.
Companies such as Cisco, Intel and Microsoft provide expertise, equipment and support to groups that are working on the ground during national disasters such as Save the Children, Oxfam, Doctors without Borders and the International Red Cross. As a group, they pool resources and share solutions so that relief agencies can have a bigger, better coordinated impact.
Initially developed five years ago by Cisco, the briefcase originally weighed 50lbs and cost almost $50,000. Nethope members worked together to help improve the design. It now has about the weight of a laptop and delivers ten times the power of the prototype, all for $3,000-4,000 says Nethope’s Chief Executive Bill Brindley. And thanks to the addition of super lightweight connector cables and a folding solar umbrella, it no longer even requires an operative car battery to work in the direst of situations. Brindley says designers are constantly refining the product. “We are continuing to work to make it faster and more powerful.”
What do you think?
Donors to relief agencies generally like to see their money go directly to buying blankets or bags of rice for victims of disasters—not technological support like the briefcase. What this means is that while the average corporation spends $13,000 per desktop on technology, the average relief NGO has only $2,800 to spend. How can Nethope work to close this gap?
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