Providing communication support in emergencies

October 2, 2017

Beringer Finance’s CTO Gisli Olafsson is at the moment in Puerto Rico, helping coordinate an effort to provide connectivity to response organizations and communities affected by hurricane Maria. Gisli has extensive experience from responding to disasters around the world, using technology in crisis situations. 

NetHope is restoring critical connectivity and sharing credible information with responding aid organizations, can you tell us a bit more about the project?

– Over 95% of Puerto Rico is without access to communication and a similar number of people are without electricity. In order to effectively coordinate the overall response and relief efforts, it is essential that the affected communities have an ability to share information about their needs and for response organizations to be able to effectively communicate where they will be providing relief. Access to information has been recognized by the international response community as a critical component of any response. This is often referred to as Information as Aid.

NetHope, a consortium of 50 of the world’s leading non-profit organizations, with generous support from Facebook and other technology companies, has almost two decades of experience in providing communication support in emergencies. They will be working with the FEMA, local government, mobile network operators, and civil society organizations to provide communication where it is most needed as the mobile network gets restored over the coming months.

You have over 20 years’ of experience in responding to disasters around the world and are considered one of the leading experts on the use of technology in crisis situations, how is technology changing the way we respond when disaster strikes?

– One of the biggest change I have seen in recent years is being enabled by the explosive growth in mobile phone ownership. Affected communities are now able to have their voice heard when it comes to how the response is being conducted. They can express their needs and use social networks to coordinate local community efforts.

With this comes increased information about what the actual situation is on the ground and that leads to deeper transparency of the situation.

It is my belief that this change will in the near future lead to more bottom up, people driven response to crisis.

You are also the CTO of Beringer Finance, how does the work you do and have done when it comes to responding to disasters merge with that role?

– In my current role I get to see how technology is disrupting a broad number of sectors. I get to see how innovation is addressing complex problems we previously believed were impossible to handle. This gives me hope that we can transform the way we help people in need and are able to leverage technology to safe lives and reduce suffering.

If you are interested in supporting this effort, more information can be found by following the link below.

Sara Liljedal