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ICT alliance pushing broadband to help combat Ebola

By , Portals editor
Africa , 23 Jan 2015

ICT alliance pushing broadband to help combat Ebola

NetHope, a consortium of 42 leading international humanitarian organisations, has teamed up with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and several technology firms to establish the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI).

The initiative, which includes Facebook, Cisco, EveryLayer and Inveneo, is focused on the rollout of high-speed broadband internet access to Ebola responders based in hundreds of Ebola treatment facilities, NGO offices and logistical hubs in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

In a media statement ERCI described reliable communications capacity as “an essential tool for response organizations combating the outbreak, which has killed more than 8,600 people according the World Health Organization.”

They believe that slow, unreliable access to the internet remains a challenge for coordinating the Ebola relief effort, particularly in some of the hardest hit areas that lack any form of high-speed broadband.

“Existing networks have also been strained by the influx of relief workers and agencies in the region, increasing demand on the already fragile infrastructure,” claims the initiative.

However, a number of technology-led initiatives/ partnerships that have already been introduced to combat Ebola and the question of what makes this one different was posed to Mark Summer, CEO and co-founder of San-Francisco-based EveryLayer (formerly known as Volo).

“This initiative is unique in that it is focused on providing broadband connectivity in regions where it is not available by current service providers. While there may be voice service, typically there is only 2G / EDGE data service available. Until now NGOs have been forced to use expensive satellite based connectivity solutions. This initiative will help deliver terrestrial based connectivity to these organizations,” he says.

Summer points out that the approach is differentiated by the fact that once the fight against Ebola has been won, the broadband infrastructure and partnerships will stay in place.

“The goal is not only to provide short term support and solutions but to enable a long term improvement. EveryLayer is working with local service providers who are integrating this equipment into their networks. These service providers are being trained on the support and maintenance of this equipment. Initially the ERCI will provide any support and maintenance but after 6 months the service providers will take this over,” he continues.
In August 2014 EveryLayer assisted Ugandan internet service provider (ISP) Zoom Wireless setup operations and rollout a range of corporate, small business and residential grade fixed wireless services in Gulu, Uganda.

The technology being deployed via ERCI is based on a combination of extending satellite technology and carrier-grade Wi-Fi technology.

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