The 7.2-magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti on 12 January 2010 destroyed the country’s telecommunications infrastructure. Telecommunications are key to relief operations: they enable assessment teams to quickly communicate priority needs.
The United Nations promptly activated its partnership with Ericsson Response and asked the company to provide communication services and Information Communications and Technology support. Sarah Gannon led the first team, composed of six employees from Ericsson Response Volunteers. Within days of the devastating earthquake, they arrived from Sweden, Brazil, Costa Rica and Canada with the necessary equipment.
“We worked hard to deploy telephony and internet communication to the UN staff on time,” said Sarah. “At the end of the day though, the key is to take initiative and provide assistance in any area you can. The cooperation with OCHA, as well as the wider UN, has been great, and there have been many opportunities where we have assisted each other to deploy more quickly by pooling our areas of expertise."
After a few weeks, the first team was relieved by Team 2, composed of Brent Carbno (Team Leader, Canada), Lars-Petter Svensson, Fredrik Linderbäck and Anna Lundmark (Sweden) and Craig Kiggen (South Africa). Forty trained volunteers were on standby.
Thanks to its collaboration with Ericsson, the United Nations was able to operate a mobile telephony network, enabling humanitarian workers to better coordinate their activities.
The Brage GSM system deployed by Ericsson Response provides mobile telephony coverage for approximately 200km2. This area includes the United Nations logistics base, Camp Charlie where many aid workers are staying, and parts of downtown Port-au-Prince. A second GSM system deployed to Haiti, and now being set up, will increase the coverage to around 400km2. The GSM system “Brage” is connected to the central United Nations telephony gateway via satellite, making this mobile GSM system a seamless part of the United Nations telephony system.
“The GSM system provides robust voice communication between UN staff in Haiti and UN offices worldwide," said Craig Kiggen, Ericsson Response volunteer in Haiti. “We know this equipment inside out. Should any problems occur, we can troubleshoot immediately since we are on the site 24/7. In case of serious issues, we have direct access to the office back in our home locations (South Africa for Craig). Some of our volunteers are actually part of the design teams for these systems.”
Since 2000, Ericsson Response has provided staff and mobile communication systems for humanitarian crises in many countries including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Republic of Panama, Sudan and USA.