Through the use of various, currently on the market,low-cost communication technologies, we can build a portable, modular, and scalable means for creating global transparency by empowering people with the ability to freely disseminate information without fear of retribution.
By leveraging the modularity and scalability and incorporating it with a P.A.C.T. agreement, the system can be tailored for use in almost any region. Further, by utilizing Project Management Principles, a framework design will be built to enable both planned and emergency deployment of a tailored communications package.
When goal setting it is often said that writing them down helps one to accomplish the goals because it is a way of formalizing them.This is the underlying tenet of the P.A.C.T. agreement. The agreement is designed as a pact between the operators of technology in the local countries,the local people that are the users of the communication technology, and the partnering agencies such as USAID, Humanity United, and others.
This pact would contain commitments that each party is making to help the local people and will articulate what form that help would take. From the agency standpoint, this could include commitments to provide training on the technology to monitoring a back-end information portals for alerts and responding to those alerts. For those operating the technology,the agreement can specify the importance of operating the equipment and the positive or negative impact of operating/not operating the equipment could have on the people they have committed to help.
The P.A.C.T. agreement would also contain commitments to utilize or facilitate the use of the technology for positive purposes in times other than emergencies. These uses would vary based on the tailored solution for the region or location, but could feasibly include:
- Local Crime Alerts
- Sharing Community information, e.g. crop data, weather alerts or warnings, and potentially even educationally based information
- Other Social Portal information
P.A.C.T. as a Platform– Designed for deployment in a similar fashion to corporate Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, such as Oracle, SAP, and others, P.A.C.T. leverages the platform methodology of using individual modules that can be selected based on ideal fit for each region.
Effectively, each communication technology (CT) selected will become its own module, similar to say the Payroll Module or Human Resources Module of the ERP system. Allowing for plug and play of different technologies for the different locations, which means that with the right mix of CT modules, the solution can be tailored based on the needs or weaknesses of the location. The Modular Design Example graphic that is uploaded, visually exhibits this system modularity.
The design of a CT platform reduces over investment in single architectures that may become obsolete or are expensive and resource intensive to set up and maintain.
Two scenarios to highlight the benefit of P.A.C.T. as a platform:
Scenario 1 – Geographically Remote Environments
Suppose that this location has little risk of hostile forces intentionally shutting down communications simply because there is little existing communication infrastructure to begin with.
After analysis, it is determined that initially, an information relay capability would be best suited and easiest to obtain adoption. P.A.C.T. could take the HPCP module (discussed below), and create a relay network that will allow two-way communication from the remote location into a population center with established communication to the outside world and vice versa. See the Scenario 1 Image attached to the concept.
Since the system is both modular and scalable, which will also be discussed below, at any time a local situation changes, additional HPCP relay points or even different communication modules can be introduced seamlessly into the existing communication plan. Similarly, if an additional information media is needed, such as pictures or videos, a new module can be quickly deployed.
Scenario 2 – Hostile Government Network Disabling
While undertaking the locational assessment, as part of the Project Management Plan, it is determined that a high likelihood exists that the local government will disable or otherwise destroy cellular, radio,and other communication networks.
To support maximum information dissemination, the Wireless UAVs, Pirate Box, and HPCP modules are selected. In choosing these three modules, firsthand accounts through voice, text, picture, and video is enabled, while ensuring those providing the information is done so anonymously.The Scenario 2 Image shows a hypothetical deployment scenario where these three modules could be used.
As with any platform, P.A.C.T. is fully scalable without the need for additional capital-intensive infrastructure, as each different CT module is devised of a portable, low-cost, technology that requires zero tie-in to existing communication infrastructure.
Further, P.A.C.T. is quickly scalable in three distinct ways. First, as within Scenario 1, above, individual modules are scalable to the needs and environment. For example, should additional relays be needed to accommodate more than one rural location, adding additional HPCP relay stations is quick and can be done at little cost. Likewise, if the network load on the wireless UAVs becomes too great, adding additional wireless UAVs would quickly improve the situation.
The second method of scalability is the ability to add additional CT modules to an existing location based on need. For example,suppose that in Scenario 1, an anonymous way to transmit pictures or video becomes necessary, one of the other CT modules can be deployed into the region without the need to disrupt the HPCP communication system. This would then allow for more than one type of information to be provided to support personnel, which allows for a more complete picture of events.
Lastly, in terms of scalability, P.A.C.T. is capable of adding new CT modules to its platform as new or additional types of portable communication technologies that support anonymous use become available.
At the core of the concept is the portable, low cost communication technologies that allow for anonymous use. While this limits the selection of potential CT modules, it serves to ensure that those who provide the information cannot be punished and it allows for easy relocation and/or concealment when necessary.
Specifically, three initial technologies have been identified that are currently available and able to be implemented at any time.They are discussed below. Additional technologies would be evaluated as they are brought to market.
Wireless Access on the Fly
Liam Young of Tomorrow's Thoughts Today has debuted Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that provide wireless communication as a method to combat oppressive regimes censoring or eliminating access to communications. The project is called Electronic Countermeasures.
These UAVs carry what amounts to wireless base stations that create communication capabilities without the need for a cellular network or access to the internet. This ad hoc network is completely mobile making it difficult to track and locate the UAVs that make the network possible.
These UAVs can also be modified to carry platforms that would allow access to the internet that could be used to get regular messages out to the world even if the local government is blocking standard communication.
Companies, such as IDEO, could collaborate with the developers of the technology to improve the designs possibly making them simpler to use and tailored to purpose. Look at IDEO's re-envision of the shopping cart as example of their ability to revolutionize a design.
The UAV Utilization Map image,attached to the concept, provides a rough idea at how these UAVs enable voice,text message, pictures, videos, and other digital files to be transmitted to other users and devices connected to the network.
Further, with a mild modification,the operators of these wireless UAVs would be able to push emergency alerts to the devices attached to the network. These alerts could be messages that come from other users or from the operators directly.
Lastly, contrary to what most people’s initial impressions are about UAVs, these are extremely inexpensive, only a couple hundred dollars per unit, and the operation of them is as simple as using a remote controlled toy.
Developed by NYU Professor David Darts, these boxes cost as low as $50 to make, creating a low cost method for communication. Essentially, these boxes allow for the upload and download of files remotely. Files can be pictures, videos, or other documents.
Additionally, these boxes also have a built-in IRC chat function for users connected to the same box. The users of the box are completely anonymous and it does not track user data making it impossible for users to be identified if the box is discovered.
Deployed with the right network, these boxes could be used to pass information without the need for direct contact or even knowing who the individual on the other end is for safety and security. Nodal or network maps for deployment are completely customizable for the specific region or location. The image attached to this concept show what one of these boxes look like. The pirate image on the box is solely the preference of the individual that built it and does not have to be included on all boxes.
The Scenario 2 Image, attached to the concept, indicates how this technology can be deployed.
High Powered Cordless Phones
As the name suggests, these are simply cordless phones utilizing standard electrical current from existing power grids or generators; however, the transmission power is boosted far beyond what the US FCC authorizes for use in the United States.
Rather than needing to use the telephone hard lines, the system comes with multiple base and handset units that are located at the maximum distance allowable. Then the handsets are free to talk back and forth to each other similar to walkie-talkies all without the need of telephone lines or radio towers. An HPCP base station with four handsets start at around $60 to purchase with no setup costs.
This technology is used extensively by warlords and other criminal elements to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement and other governmental bodies; and because of the way the technology is employed, intercept and tracking is extremely difficult.
The Scenario 1 Image, attached to the concept,indicates how this technology can be deployed.
As previously mentioned, since P.A.C.T. is not an individual technology, but a platform made of various CT technologies, the ability to add new technologies as they come to market provides future flexibility to the platform to constantly stay up to date and refresh its modules as some become antiquated or are rendered unusable by changes in the environment or other local conditions.
As an example, of technologies that are on the horizon and possibly usable out of the box or with minor adaptation, the Robot Dragonfly, attracts attention. These Robot Dragonflies start at around $99 and the higher end models run around $399. The YouTube video of this technology is linked to the concept and is provided here. http://youtu.be/TDuvBurbjVU
There are other technologies that are on the horizon that warrant consideration in being included as a CT module within P.A.C.T.;however, their final development may change this position.
Process Enabled Deployment/Implementation
To facilitate uniform implementation and deployment,P.A.C.T. will utilize Project Management Principles to design a Process Framework.
This process framework will form the basis of a Project Management Plan, and it allows for consistent implementation, which will facilitate rapid deployment to an area in times of emergencies.
Included below is an abbreviated Framework for example and illustration. The final framework could follow this process or be expanded to allow for more detail.
5 – Step Implementation Framework –
Step 1 – Strategic Planning
- Assign the project team – For each location, a team should be created with personnel that are considered to be experts on the location and understand environmental limitations that would impact the module selection
- Examine current communication processes and information flow – The team should perform an analysis on what existing communication lines to the outside world exist from the country. This would include understanding if the local government is actively involved in disabling the communication grid. If possible, the team should start identifying local partners that will be manage and operate the equipment.
Set Objectives – The objectives of P.A.C.T. implementation should be clearly defined. For example, what type of information is needed to communicate; are there additional uses that the technology should serve, etc.
- Develop the Project Plan – The team should develop the plan, which includes the goals, objectives, timelines, CT Modules, training, and stakeholder responsibilities.
Step 2 – Procedure Review
- Review Capabilities – Review the capabilities of the deployment team as it involves operating the chosen CT modules. Fully educate the team so they can train the local operators on the technology
- Identify Manual Processes – Evaluate which communication processes are manual and which that can be automated, e.g. by creating a web site that collects and analyzes data provided via text based methods, or a cataloging of photos and videos
- Develop Standard Operating Procedures –These should include things like metrics that determine the need to add additional or new modules, procedures for introducing these new modules, reporting requirements when incidents are reported, and processes for verifying the information.
Step 3 – Link the location to the Back End Support
- Build the Link – Create a direct portal for information upload in the P.A.C.T. software system or create the form to fill out for the Pirate Boxes, which someone then collects and enters into the database.
Step 4 – Training and Testing
- Pre-test the equipment and software – The project team should test all CT Module equipment being deployed to ensure it is all functional. Additionally, all back end support links should be tested to ensure that the modules are working together properly. If time permits, employ scenario based testing to ensure that the modules are functioning and interacting as designed.
- Training – Train the local operators in the use of the system and its deployment
- Final Testing – Have the newly trained local operators conduct a test similar to that of the pre-testing phase once they have installed the equipment.
Step 5 – Go Live & Evaluation
- Go Live – Have the local operators begin operating the equipment within the guidelines of the P.A.C.T. agreement,ensuring that information flow is occurring.
- Evaluation – Utilize a structured evaluation plan which ties back to the goals and objectives of the project plan. It is important to review to ensure that the appropriate modules are being utilized in the region.
The above framework has been provided as example of the integration of Project Management Principles to create a standard process for implementation and deployment of P.A.C.T. into any region. Utilization of a framework will help to ensure the optimum use and impact of the communication technologies. The above framework is not necessarily the framework to be employed during realization and full operation. Ultimately, the goal of P.A.C.T. is to empower the people to be able to provide a continuous flow of information to the rest of the world so that help can be provided.
There are other mobile communication options such as portable UHF radios, etc; however,deployment, upkeep, maintenance, and replacement of some of these options are expensive. They also often require other forms of infrastructure that can become targets.
P.A.C.T. modules, like the ones briefly mentioned above, are small,inexpensive, and can be easily concealed. They are also scalable and create a platform for easy deployment in multiple locations.
Specifically, by integrating these technologies into a complete package, simple,effective, and cost-efficient P.A.C.T. networks can be brought online quickly by the individuals in need.
Further, since the chosen technologies all run outside of the traditional communication grids, hostile government interference is minimal.Finally, P.A.C.T. can add new technology modules to the platform as they become available to help create solutions that are fit for any environment and that can provide a 360 degree view of the situation in these remote, hard-to-access regions, whether they are that way by geography,or design by hostile forces.