US Navy to trial Irish charity’s technology in upcoming disaster response exercise

23 Jul 2012

Disaster Tech Lab, a subsidiary of Haiti Connect, the Irish technology charity working in Haiti, has been invited by the US Navy to take part in its disaster response exercise in California in August.

Haiti Connect has been working in conjunction for the past two years with other disaster response organisations, such as Humanity Road, Nethope, the Red Cross, FEMA, and JP/HRO.

Disaster Tech Lab participated in ESOF at The Convention Centre Dublin recently. It is developing and promoting new technologies to be used in disaster response work and will work directly with the dedicated rapid response team the charity has decided to set up to build Wi-Fi networks for disaster response workers and humanitarian projects across the globe.

The RELIEF/JIFX exercise

The twice-yearly RELIEF/JIFX exercise is organised by the US Navy’s Naval Graduate School and is renowned for testing cutting-edge disaster-response technology.

The event brings together humanitarian practitioners, technology developers, federal civilians, and active duty military personnel together for hands-on collaboration.

The multi-institutional field setting provides a semi-structured learning environment promoting collaboration and relationship building across an increasingly diverse response network.

Wi-Fi in disaster zones

At a recent conference hosted by Haiti Connect’s main equipment donor, Aruba Networks, Google also approached the charity to discuss their humanitarian work and how links between the two may develop.

Haiti Connect was founded by IT industry consultant Evert Bopp in response to the Haiti earthquake of January 2010 which killed more than 300,000 people and left more than half a million other people homeless.

In early April 2010, Haiti Connect sent the first team of volunteers to the devastated island to build large-scale Wi-Fi networks so these could be used by NGOs and disaster-response workers to communicate better and to co-ordinate their activities.

Since then, it has supplied internet connectivity and IT infrastructure to more than 20 organisations, such as the schools, hospitals, orphanages, clinics and community centres.

The charity has also provided a generator to the newly built Camejo Hospital in Leogane (the epicentre of the earthquake)  and it now runs several operating theatres, a ward and an outpatient clinic.

So far, the charity has shipped supplies worth more than US$250,000 to Haiti.

The most recent project for Haiti Connect is a technology business start-up incubation programme.

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