New Project: ICT training for refugees.

As part of our ongoing involvement in the refugee crisis response across Greece we are shortly launching a new and exciting project.

During this two week project we will provide ICT training for a number of refugees residing in the official camps. The training will focus on the use, configuration and maintenance of WiFi networks in general as well as the specific maintenance of the networks that we have installed in the camps. Following the completion of this training the participants will be become members of our volunteer teams and assist in the maintenance and support of the network infrastructure in the camp that they reside in.

In addition to the training provided we are working to provide each participant with a smartphone and laptop that they can use to carry our their volunteer work.

We are working together with a number of organisations that are working in the camps in Attica to identify suitable refugees. A suitable candidate should already posses a basic knowledge of computer networking as well as a basic comprehension of spoken and written English.

We’re aiming to run the training sessions around the middle of August and for the moment the project will be limited to the Attica region.

Refugees interested in participating can contact us by email

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Project manager for Lesvos wanted!

Kara Tepe WiFi Coverage

Our current project manager on Lesvos is moving to Athens so we are in urgent need of a volunteer with solid computer networking skills to take over.
You will be expected to manage the WiFi networks that we have installed in Kara Tepe and Moria. Support from our remote techs is available on an ongoing basis.
This will include performance monitoring, hands on repair & troubleshooting as well as liaising with other NGO’s and local authorities.
You need to have a solid technical background, be able to to work on your own initiative and show significant improvisation skills.
DTL will provide flights and contribute towards accommodation expenses.
You will also be provided with a phone and tablet.
Minimum availability 1 month but longer preferred.
If you’re available please email us for more details: contact@disastertechlab.org

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June 2016: Refugee Crisis response update.

mainland greece site map

As our refugee crisis response enters its ninth month is is time to share a summary of what we have done so far as well as our future plans. First some numbers; so far we have installed equipment in 9 locations across Lesvos. This includes the two main refugee camps, Moria and Kara Tepe. Since we set up our networks in these camps over 400,000 refugees have passed through and used our wifi while staying in the camps. In addition to this NGO personnel, individual volunteers and personnel from the Greek authorities have used our services.  Our work on Lesvos will continue and we will continue to provide communication services for as long as it’s needed.

Our CEO gave a short interview to RTE News recently that gives a good insight in our work. It’s short and well worth listening to.

Our focus is moving to the Greek mainland now where, following the agreement between the EU & Turkey, a large number of semi permanent camps are being established. We have taken on the task of building wifi networks in 16 locations. Most of these are in or around Athens but 4 locations are in the North-West of the country. We are working together with a volunteer group from GRnet who are assisting us with connecting the networks in the camps to the actual internet. In some locations this requires us to build radiolinks across 30+ kilometres. Work has already started; The camp in Ritsona has wifi since last week and the range there will be extended. Our team also fixed a problem with the network at the Eliniko Hockey Stadium (which is being used a refugee center) and the network there is back up and running again. Site surveys for the other locations are planned for this coming week.

Having Internet access is making a big difference to the refugees. In addition to the obvious benefits of being able to stay in contact with their friends and family there is also the requirement that asylum applications have to be made via a Skype call. In addition to this schools and learning centers are being set up now that the camps are semi-permanent and these of course all require internet access. It’s Disaster Tech Lab’s mission to provide much needed communication means to the refugees. This has ranged from putting people with satellite phones on the landing spots in Lesvos last year (so that arriving refugees could make free calls to let their families know that they have arrived safely) to building wifi networks across multiple camps. Our work is not particularly high profile or visible but it’s having an impact by making the refugees lives just a little bit more tolerable while they are in the camps.

Female refugee on Lesvos beach using DTL Globalstar satellite phone.

Female refugee on Lesvos beach using DTL Globalstar satellite phone.

Of course none of this would be possible without the hard work of all our volunteers who selflessly donate their time and expertise. We also owe a huge “thank you” to our equipment sponsors Cambium Networks, Goal Zero, Cradlepoint, Globalstar& Solar Stik as well as our long term partner organisations Airlink & the UPS Foundation.

And lastly we owe a big thank you to everyone who donated to our cause by making a contribution towards covering the costs of our work. If you want to make a donation also you can do this by clicking on the widget below.

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Ecuador earthquake response.

map

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred on the central coast of Ecuador on 16 April 2016. The epicentre was 16 miles SSE of the town of Muisne. As of April 24th 654 people have been killed, over 12,500 injured and in excess of 7000 buildings have been damaged. A state of emergency has been declared in 6 provinces: Esmeraldas, Los Rios, Manabi, Santa Elena, Guayas and Santo Domingo.
Strong aftershocks measuring 5.5 and above are ongoing.

The damage to the infrastructure in the affected areas is significant causing telecommunication outages in several areas. Local and international first responders and aid organisations are struggling to communicate and coordinate their efforts.

Disaster Tech Lab deployed an advance team on April 21st. This team is carrying out a communications damage & needs assessment. The team travelled from Kansas City to Quito and onwards to Manta on the West Coast. They will work in the area between Manta and Pedernales meeting with local authorities, first responders and other international aid organisations. Their report will serve to determine the scale and scope of our follow up deployment.

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Our team is equipped with Globalstar SPOT GPS trackers and you can follow their progress by clicking this link.

We will post regular updates on this page showing the current and follow up team’s progress.

In the meantime you can support this deployment by making a secure online donation via this link.

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Refugee crisis response update; expanding across Greece.

The recent agreement between the EU and Turkey on how to handle the refugee crisis has caused enormous upheaval.
Refugees are now forcibly relocated to closed camps in the North of Greece where their claims for asylum will be processed.
However no adjudicators have been hired hence there is stagnation and even the new camps are rapidly filling up to capacity.
The images below show the large number of new camps and their occupancy levels. Quite a few camps are already well over capacity.

camps occupancy March 2016_1
To address we have sent an assessment team to the area around Idomeni to assess the need for connectivity and to see how we can provide this most effectively.
Based on the assessment report received as well as data from the UNHCR and other NGO’s we have decided to focus on camps in Nea Kavala, Polykastro and Cherso.
We will be shipping equipment from Lesvos as well as our depot in Ireland and are getting a team together to travel to the area ASAP.
Of course our work on Lesvos will continue as our network there is still getting lots of use and needs to be monitored and maintained.

In order to meet the funding challenge of the new camps in the North of Greece we need your support!
Please donate today by following this link.

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Refugee Crisis response update: November 4th 2015.

Kara Tepe WiFi Coverage

To say that a lot has happened since we kicked of this deployment would be an understatement. Following is our latest sitrep.

Remember: if you want to support our work you can make an online donation by clicking this link.

Lesbos is currently the main influx point for refugees coming from the Middle East and seeking asylum in Europe. The small island is only 8 kilometers from Turkey and has seen over 250,000 refugees arrive in the last few months.

The majority of refugees only stay on the island long enough to register and be issued with a temporary visa. This normally takes between 3-5 days after which they travel onwards to Athens and north into Europe. At any give moment there are between 5 and 9,0000 refugees on the small island. Most are housed either in the two, hastily erected, main camps or in the half-dozen or so smaller temporary camps. The relief effort is being run by a dozen or so large and small NGO’s but infrastructure and available services are utterly insufficient.

Comms/Tech Response:

Disaster Tech Lab deployed an advance team on September 17th to assess the various needs and to initiate a relief effort. The team was made up of a mix of IT/comms engineers an. These engineers set to work finding suitable locations to provide Internet access. After meeting with representatives from the UNHCR we were asked to provide WiFi internet access to both refugee camps, which were being built at that time. This would require building an infrastructure being able to handle thousand of users in a location with no infrastructure. We agreed to do this and designed the network from scratch. This included designing and sourcing lampposts to mount the equipment on, solar panels and batteries to power it (there was no mains power). A 50 Mbps vDSL service was ordered to be installed at Kara Tepe camp. As there was no option for a reliable backhaul service at Moria camp we had no other option but to design and build a point-to-point radio link over 15 kilometers (with a relay mounted on water tower halfway).

water tower

The local police department who runs the registration center at Moria was also in need of a reliable link to their HQ in Mytilini and has asked us to provide this. To achieve this we needed to build another point-to-point link via another mountaintop.

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In addition to these large projects there are also a number of smaller aid locations on the northern end of the island near to the locations where the refugees are arriving. Most of these have no communication services or even electricity. We are working to provide internet access as well as solar power and lights in these locations. Disaster Tech Lab has become the lead ICT NGO on the island providing services to the UNHCR, Mercy Corps, IRC, MSF and a whole range of other NGO’s working on Lesbos.

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Goal Zero batteries and lights being installed at Skala.

Out tech team has also deployed a number of satellite phones on the island which have been used at the landing points to allow refugees to contact their friends or family back home to let them know that they have arrived. It’s a simple but very much service that has proven to be extremely popular.

Coordination:

With the large number of informal & grassroots organization working on the island as well as all the individual volunteers there is an urgent lack of coordination. To call the relief effort “organized chaos” is an understatement. To address this problem Disaster Tech Lab is deploying a team of experienced Incident Command & Coordination specialists who will assist in improving situational awareness, cross-organizational communication, overall coordination and resource sharing. This will be achieved by providing an on- and off-line component. Our aim is not to tell organizations what to do but instead help them work better and more efficiently.

Photo by Doug Kuntz

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Mediterranean refugee crisis response.

Disaster Tech Lab has decided to respond to the growing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean by deploying a team to the Islands between Greece and Turkey. These islands are being flooded by refugees from Syria and Afghanistan with thousands arriving every day. The infrastructure of the island is not able to provide for such a large number of people and impromptu refugee camps are springing up all over the place.

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Our goal is to provide internet access and communication services to these camps as well as to other humanitarian aid organisation working on the island. The team will build public internet facilities which will serve as public information points as well as allowing the refugees to establish contact relatives and friends. In addition to this we will provide secure WiFi networks for other humanitarian aid workers to use.

We still have room for a number of volunteers so if you have the required skills (WiFi networking, Vsat, VoIP) then please submit an application online and we will respond with further details.

You can also support this deployment by making a donation online. Just click on this link.

The deployment will be together with a medical team from our sister organisation Disaster Medics who will be providing First Aid and pre-hospital care to the refugees.

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Images courtesy of The Daily Mail.
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Interview: Evert Bopp on technological disaster trends.

Disaster Tech Lab’s CEO was recently interviewed by CCTV-Americas

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Oklahoma 2015 deployment update.

 

flooding

Our current deployment in Oklahoma is now entering its 2nd month. While the initial reason for the deployment were the storms and tornadoes of early May the subsequent widespread and severe flooding has increased the need for our assistance.

We’re assisting a local non-profit called “The Facilitators” which sprung out of a group whom we supported during our 2013 deployment following the Moore tornadoes. This group has established very strong connections with the rural communities in the region and is tirelessly working to coordinate and assist in the rescue work, clear-up and rebuilding. The vehicle that we have fitted out with communications equipment, internet access and laptops for them is travelling around the area visiting affected communities as well as families affected by the flooding. This mobile unit allows them to carry out damage reporting on the fly as well as assisting people by providing phone and internet access which can be used for tasks such as registering for aid with FEMA, contacting insurance companies and friends and family.

The experience of the Facilitators volunteers combined with the mobile communication unit is proving a great help in assisting the affected communities to repair the flood damage and get their lives back on track.

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Op White Khyah: WiFi for Nepal 2015

Image courtesy of CNN

Image courtesy of CNN

Disaster Tech Lab is deploying a team of IT/Networking engineers to Nepal later this month. During the initial relief effort following the April 25th and subsequent earthquakes it has become clear that reliable & resilient communications are an issue for many NGO’s operating  in Nepal. One of the large NGO’s which has been operating in Nepal for many years is “Operation Mobilisation”. Their compound just South of Kathmandu is being used as a hub by many other NGO’s and humanitarian organisations. This makes resilient, scalable communications even more essential.

The Disaster Tech Lab team will build a wireless Point-to-point link from the center of Kathmandu to the Operation Mobilisation compound. This P2P link will provide a reliable internet service to the compound. From there we will build a public and a private WiFi network covering the compound. The next step will be the installation of a VoIP service providing in- and out-bound calls. The resulting network will provide resilient internet access and communication services not only for Operation Mobilisation personnel but also for all the other NGO’s using the compound as their hub.

While in Nepal the team will also examine the options for providing reliable communications for the OM field teams and work to provide a suitable solution to this problem also.

The team will be composed of 7 volunteers from Europe, the US and Australia and will be using networking equipment generously donated by Cambium Networks as well as GPS SPOTgen3 trackers from Globalstar.

You can support this deployment by making a donation via our GoFundMe page.

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