Communication Critical to Relief in Haiti

Posted by Dr. William A. Brindley 
Chief Executive Officer, NetHope

Over the past ten days, the world’s response to the devastation in Haiti has been truly inspiring. The question of “Can we respond?” has been answered with continued outpouring of support. Doubt has been replaced with mobilized action.

The lifeblood of this response is communication. Phone and Internet connectivity are essential to effectively coordinate the delivery of aid and ensure that food, water, shelter, medical care and other essentials are directed appropriately. But the already frail technology infrastructure in Port-au-Prince was rendered all but useless by the earthquake, making it nearly impossible to communicate within the region or coordinate with the outside world.

The mission of NetHope is to help ensure that international humanitarian organizations have access to the best information and communication technology and practices when serving people in the developing world. To overcome the enormity of the challenges in Haiti, NetHope – in partnership with its NGO member agencies and the United Nations Emergency Telecom Cluster – dispatched a team of engineers to set up a telecommunications infrastructure and wireless connectivity in Port-au-Prince, using a combination of VSAT satellite dishes and Wi-Fi wireless networks.


These resources, housed by CHF International at its local Haitian compound, will provide telecom connectivity and network support to all of NetHope’s 20 member agencies in the region, enabling them to coordinate the relief effort more effectively and efficiently. Microsoft SharePoint, for example, is an essential tool for enabling interagency collaboration and coordination, which will play a crucial role in reconstruction after the immediate emergency response is complete.

Beyond the specific technology that will be used, a fundamental key to NetHope’s success in the relief effort is the power of collaboration. Since the earthquake struck last week, NetHope has been working hand in hand with our member agencies and corporate partners to raise funds and aggregate the necessary IT tools and resources needed to coordinate the relief effort.

We’ve worked closely with Microsoft, a trusted NetHope partner. Within 48 hours of the earthquake, Microsoft responded with a generous $50,000 cash donation that enabled NetHope to quickly swing into action to begin reestablishing a telecom infrastructure. If you believe as 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