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Monday 15 September 2014

'Using technology to do good': Disaster Tech Lab

Published 21/07/2014 | 12:33

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A satellite broadband dish provided by Disaster Tech Lab at Camp Arapal, North Cebu in The Philippines.
Laptops installed by NGO Disaster Tech Lab in a temporary tentcamp following a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, 2013
Laptops installed by NGO Disaster Tech Lab in a temporary tentcamp following a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, 2013

An Irish NGO has brought emergency communications systems to disaster-stricken countries like Haiti, The Philippines, and Sandy-hit Long Island since setting up in 2010.

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Evert Bopp, originally from Netherlands but living in Ireland, founded Disaster Tech Lab in 2010 as a direct response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

In a disaster area, communication is vital, after food and medical aid, according to Mr Bopp.

He and his team of volunteers provide rapid response communication networks for use in disaster relief and humanitarian aid work, after an earthquake, tycoon, or hurricane.

They help set up internet cafe-style hubs in a disaster zone, so that families can search for their loved ones or let them know they’re safe. And doctors can communicate with respected medical professionals across the world for professional advice.

“We provide internet-based communications to other emergency response organisations, and also communications in disadvantaged areas.”

“We set up almost like an internet café. It can be as simple as someone logging into Facebook to let people know they’re OK, or having access to information or where they can get supplies or other information.”

“Haiti was really the start. We went in with a team of volunteers and a large amount of donated equipment to field hospitals, and two camps, to set up Skype. Some field hospitals sent information to other hospitals abroad to get a second diagnosis.”

When hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of America, Disaster Tech Lab moved in to provide technology.

And when Haiti was hit by the devastating earthquake in 2010, Aruba Networks donated $250,000 worth of equipment, which facilitated the set-up of communications hubs in Haiti.

“Most of our donations record is equipment donations. A number of companies have supported us since 2010,” Mr Bopp said.

“Our financial donations were less than €20,000 in 2013.”

More recently, Disaster Tech Lab has set up satellite broadband dishes and wifi equipment in the Philippines, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and New York state (for hurricane Sandy).

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