Tech firm keeping mobile comms working in Haiti

19 Jan 2010

An Irish technology company is helping to ensure that vital mobile communications remain operational in earthquake-devastated Haiti.

As rescue efforts continue and aid begins to reach survivors, Irish technology company Eirtight has been working around-the-clock to help ensure that essential mobile-phone network software continues to function, despite a massive increase in demands on the system and widespread physical damage to Haiti’s infrastructure.

No landline network

Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before the massively destructive earthquake last Thursday, no longer has an operational landline phone network, meaning that mobile-phone communication is the only option for the vast majority of people in Haiti who don’t have access to a satellite phone.

“After the initial earthquake and the dozens of aftershocks, the focus is obviously on rescuing as many people as possible and distributing aid to the survivors,” said Eirtight director John Beckett.

“Mobile communications are a vital component of that effort, and Eirtight has been proud to be able to contribute in some small way to the aid effort by working around the clock to ensure that software involved in the operation of the network remains functional, despite almost overwhelming demands on it.”

Devastation on the scale of that witnessed last week is hard to imagine, but timely and organised co-ordination of the relief efforts is essential.

Higher transaction volumes

Transaction volumes have increased by 2,000pc, compared to regular expected usage patterns as aid workers and survivors communicate and co-ordinate relief and rescue operations, and as alternative providers remain offline or provide severely restricted service.

Eirtight has been working with Comcel and their partners for almost two years to improve mission-critical systems integration, but nobody could have predicted the importance of this work before last Thursday.

“We are often responsible for mission-critical software and systems, but seldom does this literally come down to a matter of life or death – it is a great motivator to think that what we’re doing may actually be helping to save lives.”

The Eirtight team plans to continue to offer whatever assistance they can for as long as may be required in order to help the massive relief effort currently under way, and into the future as the country begins to rebuild.

Beckett told that Eirtight had been working with Comcel for about two years on a number of problems around systems integration.

“We never for one second expected this kind of test but so far the system has stood up to the challenges.”

By John Kennedy


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