How NetHope stays connected in disaster areas

When CIO Ed Granger-Happ goes to work every day, it’s not about the money. Though he could make more by rejoining the corporate world, Granger-Happ’s job as a CIO means much more than a paycheck. It means doing everything he can to equip his employer, Save the Children, with the technology resources it needs to further the reach of its aid. It’s also doing everything he can to help 24 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) make their aid go further.

In addition to being the CIO of Save the Children, Granger-Happ is the co-founder and Chairman of the Board at Net Hope, an IT consortium of 25 leading international NGOs. Granger-Happ co-founded NetHope with the idea that NGOs can solve technology infrastructure problems faster and cheaper together than they can alone.

“Over the last 20 years, private industry has made huge leaps in productivity due to technology investments,” says Granger-Happ. “By comparison, the humanitarian sector is far more constrained in its technology spending. By bringing NGOs together to solve common problems, we leverage each others’ knowledge and ideas to create and deploy technology solutions at scale in the developing world.”

One such solution NetHope developed is the Network Relief Kit, which provides first responders instant connectivity during times of natural disasters when the existing communications infrastructure is down. It’s small enough to fit in a child’s backpack and includes a solar power kit that connects satellite phones and laptops to a global satellite network. It significantly speeds communications so that different relief groups responding to a crisis can coordinate early relief efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters.

“We’ve been involved in natural disaster situations in the past where people had to burn important bulletins on CDs and send them via courier,” says Granger-Happ. “When lives are at stake, you need instant connectivity so that communicating during a crisis becomes an asset, not a liability. It’s not always intuitive to think that technology saves lives, but where speed is essential, it can and does.”

NetHope facilitates conversations and joint projects amongst its members that focus on ways to best apply technology in the developing world. As a single entity representing 25 NGOs, NetHope is able to attract additional funding, technology resources and business consulting services to support projects the broader NGO community has deemed as important priorities.

Collectively, NetHope member organizations work in more than 150 countries, represent more than $33 billion in humanitarian and conservation aid and employ more than 300,000 people across the developing world. It’s funded through several sources including member dues as well as cash and in-kind contributions from the private sector and charitable foundations.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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