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Linking Communities Together After Natural Disasters Strike

Inveneo creates a flexible, effective and efficient rapid response capacity to re-establish communication links after disasters strike.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The Problem When disasters strike, communications systems are often destroyed or rendered inoperable. In some contexts, network operators – Internet service providers (ISP), mobile network operators (MNOs), etc – are able to mount an effect and timely response. In setting where operators have fewer resources and/or regulatory mandates, operators are usually less capable. Following a disaster in these settings, relief organizations working to deliver urgently needed medical aid, food, and shelter to affected populations, and the impacted populations themselves, face the daunting challenge of limited communications. At root, the problem is that while private communications infrastructure is critical to disaster response, private companies have limited resources or inadequate incentive to invest in disaster preparedness and recovery capacity. This situation suggests the need to augment local capacity to accelerate the re-establishment communications after disaster strikes. The Current Solution A range of organizations and individuals currently attempt to meet this need. However, planning, resourcing and coordinating an effective disaster communications response capacity is complicated by several factors. First, the timing and damage caused by natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, are essentially unpredictable. Moreover, a wide range of local environmental, political, economic and cultural factors conspires to complicate planning efforts. As a result of these and other factors, organizations working to meet this need – Inveneo included – have thus far taken a mainly reactive approach, scrambling to assemble and coordinate the requisite technical, human and financial resources only after disaster has occurred or is immanent. As most who have participated first hand will attest, this reactive approach results a slower, less effective and more chaotic overall response.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are the communities affected by natural disasters, so specific numbers are unknown. Inveneo’s thinking on how modest investments in equipment, training and coordination could transform the current reactive approach to a more proactive and effective posture. Doing so could substantially improve the primary measures of response effectiveness – speed and efficiency – but would also help create a more flexible, scalable and sustainable response capacity built around a community of committed professionals, whether paid or volunteer. A wide range of technologies and tools may be needed in any given disaster response and the tools available will, inevitably, change and improve with time. Inveneo’s experience to date suggests that currently available low-cost wireless networking tools offer the most flexible and cost-effective means of re-establishing broadband data and voice communications to support relief organizations as well as basic access for affected communities.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Our goal is not to replace existing actors, but rather to create wireless “strike teams” that can operate independently or integrate seamlessly with other responders towards the shared goal of faster and more efficient recovery of communications after disasters strike. While ICTs are clearly important, non-technical resources, such as better planning/preparedness, capacity building and coordination/communications, are arguably where the greatest opportunities lie. Our goal is to adapt best practices in the fields of incident management and disaster preparedness – including the National Incident Management System (NIMS) framework and incident command methods – to the specific needs of disaster communications response.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Inveneo delivers the tools of technology – sustainable computing and broadband – to those who need it most in the developing world, transforming lives through better education, healthcare, economic opportunities and faster emergency relief.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Since 2006, Inveneo and our 120+ ICT Partners have delivered solutions to more than 3.2 million people in over 1,900 communities in 31 countries across the developing world. While knowing that natural disasters will happen in the future, Inveneo wants to work towards a faster and more efficient relief system to get organizations up and running quickly after disasters strike.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Inveneo will aim to use the existing bandwidth and towers of in-country ISPs and MNOs to co-locate equipment and expand connectivity to emergency relief agencies. Since MNOs already have established high-bandwidth Internet sources, in-country core facilities typically remain operational in the aftermath of disasters. This allows the use of high-speed broadband Internet access even if some infrastructure is damaged. If for any reason it is not possible to work with MNOs, Inveneo will extend connectivity to relief agencies via satellite. While satellites typically offer lower speeds and reliability, they can provide a good bandwidth source that is quickly extendable using Inveneo’s wireless last-mile networks that can reach relief sites within a ~50km radius. Inveneo will closely coordinate all activities with other ICT responder entities, such as WFP’s Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, Ericsson Response, and NetHope, to maximize the impact of Internet connectivity to responding NGO

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Inveneo will create a robust surge roster of trained and certified staff, volunteers, and strategic regional partners, who will be prepared to immediately deploy in the event of a major disaster. Inveneo’s existing Certified ICT Partners (ICIPs) will also serve as on-call responders in key disaster-prone regions across the Middle East, Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Now active in 27 countries and bringing a wealth of local and technical knowledge, ICIP staff members work side by side with Inveneo throughout the design, deployment, capacity building and maintenance phases of our projects. In addition, Inveneo will recruit additional bench strength from the ranks of partner companies and organizations, such as NetHope, Facebook, Google, Cisco, WISPA, and more.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Inveneo’s rapid response framework includes a support plan focused on building the technical capacity of local IT staff to take gradually increasing responsibility of the network over time, ultimately leading to fully self-sufficient local support and maintenance capabilities.

Geographic Focus

Around the world as needed. Inveneo and our 128 ICT Partners have already worked in 31 countries.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

No more than 36 months will be needed. When a major disaster strikes, Inveneo will immediately deploy a senior engineer to conduct an assessment of the scope of damage to communications systems and determine the level of response needed. Based on the assessment results, Inveneo will activate its surge roster to immediately establish trained staff and volunteers with connectivity kits in affected areas.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED

Great Idea! When I served as director of a disaster field office in 1974 after what was then the US's worst tornado, we were without communications for almost a week. Having your product would have helped our federal agency do a better job of providing emergency services to thousands of disaster victims. Best wishes on your project!