On the 29 and 30 April 2015, the 36th session of the Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications (WGET) took place in Dubai.
The WGET forum is designed to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders on the subject of Emergency Telecommunications, this includes UN agencies, NGOs, Mobile Network Operators, private technology companies and other organisations active in this field.
The CDAC Network was invited to give a presentation. Mike Adams from First Response Radio, Gil Arevalo from UNOCHA and Angela from the Secretariat discussed the importance of prepositioning relationships and technology to better communicate with communities in disaster response, so that the partnerships in-country can be built up before disaster strikes and subsequently work more fluidly at the time of crisis. Mike and Gil gave examples from the Philippines, both after Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 and in response to Typhoon Hagupit in 2014. They spoke about how for example relationships with different media providers and journalists enabled them to quickly get relevant information broadcast out to communities over radio, a pre-existing relationship with the telecommunication regulator enabled them to get a licence to broadcast immediately, and also about how small partnerships of coincidence on the ground helped keep radio stations on air simply through sharing fuel with other responders.
The other sessions covered a range of strategic issues facing those working in different aspects of communications in humanitarian response, from infrastructure to services to the content provided by aid agencies and information by media. The recent Humanitarian Connectivity Charter was discussed amongst participants, particularly MNOs who outlined some of the difficulties they face in restoring network connectivity in a disaster situation and spelled out some of the restrictions and opportunities they faced in carrying out these tasks.
Using satellite to restore connectivity was discussed with many satellite companies taking inspiration from the work the GSMA and MNOs had done on their charter, to formulate one of their own.
Other sessions discussed the use of data in a humanitarian situation, the 'uberficaton' of humanitarian response, how humanitarians may need to do more to address cyber-security and issues of data privacy with an increasingly inter-connected profiling of beneficiaries, and finally strategic questions about the role of the response community in the future and whether more of this would be taken into the hands of communities - the real first responders - themselves.
The full agenda can be accessed on the WGET forum website here: http://www.wgetforum.org/
UNOCHA produced a storify of the event which includes some key points raised in sessions: https://storify.com/UNOCHA/unveiling-digital-aid-at-the-2015-wget
We have also produced a storify that provides a detailed focus on CwC issues raised at the forum: https://storify.com/CDACN/cdac-network-members-attend-wgetforum
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