Ericsson Response – connecting volunteers and partners to help people in need
Since its establishment in 2000, Ericsson Response has consistently demonstrated the powerful role information and communication technology (ICT) can play in relief efforts by providing internet access to humanitarian workers in disaster areas. I myself became an Ericsson Response volunteer in 2006 and the program has been an important part of my life ever since. Over the course of the past 10+ years, I have participated in several field missions as well as doing back-office support and development work, and preparing systems for deployment. As challenging as the conditions in the field often are, it is extremely rewarding to be able to work with fellow Ericsson volunteers to set up a communications infrastructure that enables the humanitarian workers to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively – thereby saving more lives.
A key success factor in all Ericsson Response missions is the ability to quickly determine which technologies to leverage and how to best make use of equipment, data and volunteers. To date, hundreds of specially trained Ericsson employees have supported over 40 humanitarian relief efforts in 30 countries. During 2018 we had 142 volunteers on our roster, available to work in the field on missions, in back-office support roles or in other engagements such as participating in demonstration activities and training for our partners such as the World Food Programme. Our other partners include the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNICEF, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and Save the Children.
The changing nature of humanitarian missions
Ericsson Response was originally designed to provide temporary disaster relief for approximately 3-6 months. However, in recent years we have seen that the nature of humanitarian crises has shifted from predominantly natural disasters back in the early 2000s to predominantly conflict-related, protracted crises today. As a result, our missions have become much more complex. Protracted emergencies require long-term support. To overcome this challenge, we have developed a method for supporting our systems remotely with the help of trained, local IT staff. Our partners are also learning and adapting their own service delivery models to better accommodate longer response efforts.
The critical importance of partnership
The UN Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) is a global network of organizations that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies. Ericsson Response's primary role in the ETC ecosystem is to provide the WLAN access network of the ETC voice and data solution that delivers temporary internet connectivity until local services have sufficiently recovered or until increased capacity is no longer needed. We also strongly support the ETC's 2020 vision to move toward not just supporting humanitarian assistance on the ground but also providing connectivity to affected populations. Further, we are working with the ETC to assist national governments in improving their response readiness and communications resilience in the face of potential future disasters.
Planning for the future
As the new program director for Ericsson Response, I look forward to working together with our partners to find innovative solutions that further strengthen relief efforts, bringing more aid to the people who need it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I encourage you to visit the humanitarian response and Ericsson Response pages on our website to learn more about the important role of ICT in humanitarian response and our approach to working closely with our partners to maximize our impact.