Thursday, 21 January 2010

Haiti Connect - A vital part of any rebuild

It seems to me that there is as much food/medical aid being sent to Haiti as can reasonably be deployed. Perhaps it is time to think of some infrastructural initiatives? Haiti is going to need support for years to come and we need to look at the long story.
A neighbour of mine who I met on Twitter, Mr Evert Bopp, an internet entrepeneur has along with other techie minded folk set up a charity called Haiti Connect which aims to get wireless networks up and running in Haiti to facilitate both VOIP communications and other data services to aid the development of viable civic structures throughout Haiti - The following outlines the initiative which is planned to be on the ground and work commenced within a couple of weeks. To donate go to the site - Click HERE to enter

Haiti Connect is a volunteer initiative started after the earthquake that hit the island of Haiti on January 12th 2010. Our aim is to assemble a team of qualified engineers & support staff to go out to Haiti with the plan to build a number of wifi mesh networks. These networks will be suitable for both voice (VOIP) & data traffic enabling internet access and telephone services. We will give access to these networks to any party that needs it but we will put the emphasis on providing services for civilians & civilian authorities.

There are several advantages of using wifi equipment for this:

* It’s easy to install, configure & use.
* It uses unlicensed radio spectrum and hence avoids licence applications.
* There are a large number of wifi enabled devices already on the ground and can connect using their existing equipment.
* The equipment is relatively cheap.

Our initiative has been started from scratch meaning that we did not have a team, had no equipment, funding & transport. Initial publicity was pushed out through various social media channels (Twitter, Facebook & Linkedin). We have since received a huge wave of interest. However we are far from ready to go and need YOUR SUPPORT to get us there!

Please click on the “what we need” page or donate by clicking on the Paypal button at the top of this page.

As with any disaster zone Haiti been flooded by a large amount off relief effort: NGO, foreign government relief efforts etc. The most essential thing to coördinate all these efforts is coördination and coördination cannot take place without communications. We am starting from the assumption that the local comms systems are gone. That leaves system put in place by the US military and also a number of Iirridium (or other) satellite phones. That is still only a fraction off what is needed to accommodate the relief efforts. Now having worked with wifi for more than 10 years I am certain that a few qualified volunteers with a container of the right hardware can get a rudimentary network up & running in a few days. We will start by a few point-to-point links from a locations with back-haul (Port-au-prince?) and build out from there. Repeaters connected to the point-2-point links can distribute the signal locally where it can be used by PDA’s. laptops, iphones, VOIP phones and the like. From there the network can be built out. This type of network has been used before for disaster relief after hurricane Katrina & Charley.

Haiti’s topography seems to be suitable for this as there are quite a few mountain peaks ( sea level up to highest point: Chaine de la Selle 2,680 m) so it would be easy enough to shoot point-2-point links to high point and roll out from there.


Bock the Robber said...

Stephen, we hope to organise a significant Haiti fundrasiser in Limerick on the 21st Feb. With any luck, we'll have some big names and the best of our local musical talent, which is considerable. With fire-eaters, tumblers, magicians and portrait painters. And food.

Stephen Neill said...

Don't forget the Corrigan Brothers!