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William Brindley

William Brindley

Posted: January 17, 2010 12:12 PM

Bringing Technology and Communication to Haiti

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Words cannot begin to describe the shock in the wake of this week's tragic events in Haiti. I know I am far from alone in feeling that way. What I can put into words at this time are my thoughts on how we can accelerate relief to those in need: By establishing a network by which humanitarian agencies in the region can communicate with each other and the outside world.

Communication is the lifeblood of rescue operations in Haiti. In fact, in an interview with FOX News, Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Joseph calls out help with communications as a top need in the region. Without Internet connectivity, it's incredibly difficult for NGOs and the Haitian government to coordinate the delivery of aid and to communicate about what's needed in terms of food, water, shelter, medical supplies and more.

Our NetHope member agencies in Port-au-Prince have summed it up for me pretty starkly: Operating in Haiti right now is like responding to a disaster 5-10 years ago. With little or no infrastructure remaining, basic communication systems like phone and email are severely hampered, and the technology gains we in the Western world have benefited from in the past 10 years are virtually nonexistent in poverty-stricken Haiti.

That's where NetHope comes in.

NetHope engineers are on their way to Haiti to set up a VSAT satellite solution using WiMax technology that will restore Internet connectivity to the largest NGOs serving heroically in Haiti. All 20 NetHope member organizations operating in Haiti will have access to this network. With connectivity restored, agencies will have the tools they need to speed the delivery of much needed relief to the affected victims through a coordinated response with each other. It will also help speed the recovery and rebuilding efforts, the next critical step after the emergency aid phase is complete.

Since the earthquake struck on Tuesday, NetHope has been organizing its response and raising funds to support bringing technology equipment to the region. It's seen tremendous response from both individuals and corporations including a $50,000 cash donation from Microsoft Corporation. NetHope has also received technical expertise and in-kind equipment donations from ITC Global, Intelsat, Cisco Systems, Inveneo, Global VSAT Forum and others. While we are enormously grateful for these generous contributions, more is still needed.

If you believe like we do that bringing information and communications technology to Haiti will have a significant impact on the relief efforts underway, please consider making a donation at www.nethope.org.