Dispatch from Port-au-Prince
Engineers are making progress in their efforts to network NGOs in Port-au-Prince. Last Friday, Inveneo's team in Haiti, Mark Summer and Adris Bjornson, began deployment of the first of 15 long-distance WiFi Internet links for NetHope partner organizations across Port-au-Prince.
According to an account sent late last Friday to IEEE Spectrum by Inveneo's Joel Pliskin, Summer and Bjornson "started by connecting an Inveneo R4 Hub Server to the VSAT satellite Internet downlink from ITC Global and installing a local access point for the CHF International headquarters. Then they created two long-distance WiFi links from the headquarters CHF International, to two different offices of Save the Children in Port-au-Prince. The first link was around 2.5 kilometers long. Later this afternoon they established a third link to the offices of Catholic Relief Services."
"This is the start of the network we plan to establish within the next two weeks," Pliskin continues. "The final result will be a redundant, high-speed Internet connection shared via long-distance WiFi antennas with 15-20 NetHope member agencies. This new connectivity will open the flow of information within and among agencies and speed the delivery of critical relief services."
In an email sent to Inveneo's San Francisco office via the VSAT link he helped establish, Summer describes the scene in Port-au-Prince:
“Driving around you see many collapsed or significantly damaged buildings, often right next to completely intact ones. Here in the hills the damage is significantly less then down in the center of PaP where in it seems that in many areas more then 50% of the buildings are gone or beyond repair.
"We've seen buildings that have had two or three stories and now no higher then 5 feet of the ground - it seems as if walls just turned into sand...
"Many Haitians now live in parks, parking lots or simply in the street (often a whole road is closed because people now live it in) under tarps or in tents. You see people bathing on the side of the road, cooking in the street or parking lots etc.
"Currently the weather is very pleasant warm (in the 80s) but not too humid in the day and a nice cooling off in the evenings but not too cold. Once it starts to rain here things will be decidedly more unpleasant for the people living in the parks, streets and back yards.”
Inveneo's Pliskin says that the non-profit has already received requests for assistance from other organizations in Haiti. "As we gain a better understanding of local conditions and local partner resources, we hope to expand our impact and establish lasting ICT capacity in Haiti."
Nethope is covering equipment costs, while the EKTA Foundation has supported the initial deployment.