Irish charity provides internet access to 400,000 refugees

21 Jun 2016

Disaster Tech Lab has provided internet access to over 400,000 refugees and is expanding to 16 refugee camps on the Greek mainland

Irish-based NGO Disaster Tech Lab, having provided internet access to more than 400,000 refugees passing through the Greek island of Lesvos in the past nine months, is now expanding the service to more than 16 refugee camps built across the Greek mainland.

Internet access is crucial for refugees so they can find and stay in touch with loved ones. Many of these people carry smartphones and free Wi-Fi provided by Disaster Tech Lab gives them the ability to stay in touch.

Not only this, but their need is even more urgent given the decision by Greek authorities that refugees have to make their initial asylum application via a Skype call.

‘DTL is building radio links up to 25km in length just to bring broadband to some of the camps’

The decision is ludicrous when you consider most of the camps don’t have basic sanitation or electricity, said Disaster Tech Labs (DTL) founder and CEO Evert Bopp.

“Like on Lesvos, we are quite often starting from scratch. The NGO has to bring in electrical services or sometimes even solar panels, wind turbines and batteries to power their equipment.

“Broadband is also rarely available on-site and DTL is building radio links up to 25km in length just to bring broadband to some of the camps.

“They have been working closely with hardware manufacturers such as Cambium Networks, Solarstik, Cradlepoint and Globalstar, which have provided equipment to build the necessary infrastructure.”

NGO seeks volunteers


A Disaster Tech Lab volunteer is pictured installing a radio link for Syrian refugees in Greece

To complete the gargantuan task of connecting these 16 camps and building the local networks, DTL is recruiting tech volunteers willing to spend 10-plus days in Greece working on this project.

The organisation already has a substantial volunteer base but the duration of the current deployment in Greece and the requirements of this new project requires that they recruit more volunteers.

DTL was founded in 2010 by Evert and Kate Bopp in response to the Haiti earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people.

Since then the organisation deployed to Haiti, the USA, the Philippines, Vanuatu, Fiji, Nepal, Greece and recently Ecuador.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years