NetHope is a non-profit global collaboration between international NGOs seeking to use information and communication technologies as a force for good. They make a device called the NetReliefKit -- shown to the right -- which can best be thought of as "communications hub in a box" for NGOs in the field. Rugged, it can provide both voice communication and Internet links via satellite, and can be powered by a car battery. It has built-in WiFi, making it possible for a single NRK to serve an entire facility.
NRKs are designed specifically for use by NGOs engaged in disaster relief efforts, and will be deployed in in the tsunami zone starting next week, starting with Banda Aceh in Indonesia, then in Cuddalore and Andaman in India, then Ampara and Mullattivu in Sri Lanka. This deployment is a joint project of NetHope, Cisco, CGNET and Inmarsat. NetHope has been testing the NRK in the field -- they were used in relief efforts in response to the earthquake in Bam, Iran -- and the FAQ document (PDF) reflects something of their work-in-progress.
Red Herring has an interesting article on the use of wireless and satellite technology as a tool for disaster relief:
“A satellite signal is particularly useful in a desperate situation,” says Julie Ask, a senior analyst with Jupiter Research. Ms. Ask says that using a satellite signal to create a core to a wireless network, and then deploying wi-fi access or extending the range through a mesh network, would be an ideal way to get information infrastructure to residents and first responders. Users could access the wi-fi connection for VoIP or data services, and because of the high bandwidth, the network could move data-rich content like maps of the terrain, schematics of buildings, or satellite photos of the landscape.
NetHope was founded in 2001, and includes a number of well-known NGOs and IT companies as members and partners. On their webpage describing the services they provide, I was particularly pleased to see this entry:
NetHope focuses on solutions that have major local content in terms of service and support to ensure long term sustainability of our deployments. NetHope develops in-country chapters; fosters technical interaction; and holds training courses in-country or regionally in advance of deployments.
As we've said, leapfrogging can be key to the long-term recovery of the affected nations. It's good to see tools such as the NetReliefKit, intended for aid agencies, can also be designed to help facilitate the leapfrogging process.
(Thank you to W. David Stephenson for bringing this to our attention!)
Has anyone seen anything similar for micro-enterprise projects?