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Paving the way for Disaster Preparedness

DEC. 8, 2019

Article published by SatellitePro ME on December 8, 2019

Geeks Without Frontiers recently hosted a disaster-preparedness programme for an Afghani delegation in the UAE.

Geeks Without Frontiers (GEEKS), a non-profit with the goal of leveraging connectivity to improve and save lives throughout the world, has – with support from the US government and in coordination with leading international organisations – successfully provided a disaster preparedness programme for the government of Afghanistan.

The programme, which also received support from key industry members, is part of a GEEKS global initiative. It harnesses connectivity, technology and regulation, and combines them with stakeholder resilience strategies focused on disaster preparedness, response and recovery, to help protect, save and restore lives.

“GEEKS is honoured to work alongside the Afghan government, in coordination with the US government, and with support from the United Nations and key communications companies,” says GEEKS CEO David Hartshorn. “The outcome of this programme is not only strengthened disaster preparedness, but also an important step toward the development of a national emergency communications plan for Afghanistan.”

Central to the GEEKS programme was an Emergency Communications Management symposium held recently in the UAE, delivered with support from the US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) and made possible through funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Industry sponsors were also instrumental to the programme’s success, including Arabsat, Hughes and Intelsat. Knowledge and skills were imparted by subject-matter experts from throughout the GEEKS connectivity network to 25 Afghan delegates from multiple government agencies and local network operators.

GEEKS’ capacity building draws upon connectivity best practices, shared with the delegates by representatives of organisations central to international and national resilience initiatives. For instance, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency, shares best practice in communications regulation, policy and spectrum management. During the programme, the ITU focussed on optimising these government functions for improved security and resilience.

The United Nations Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (UN-ETC), which coordinates disaster preparedness and response for UN agencies in disaster-affected nations in every major region, advised delegates on technology tools, operational strategy and key considerations for coordinating with ETC before and during relief efforts. The communications industry, represented by Arabsat, Hughes and Intelsat, shared updates on how state-of-the-art systems and services are being leveraged through resilience strategies for more effective preparedness, response and recovery. Hands-on skills building was provided by the GEEKS team, together with operators of the technology solutions used for disaster response.

The symposium concluded with an agreement to build upon the dialogue established during the programme, by collaborating on the development of a National Emergency Communications Plan for Afghanistan. A timeline for action was confirmed by all the stakeholders, whose contributions continue to be coordinated and supported by GEEKS.

The GEEKS capacity-building team was drawn from the organisation’s global network of leading connectivity experts, including Riaz Lamak, GEEKS International Programme Lead, who manages capacity building and facilitates performance quality assurance of assets, human resources and processes; Mazen Nassar, GEEKS Master Instructor and CEO of Mena Nets, which manages system integration, training and consulting through portfolio of seven technology lines; Joe Simmons, GEEKS Project Director, who has extensive experience addressing global connectivity challenges in the NGO sector; and Shafeeq Hamza, GEEKS Training Manager & MBC Trainer, as well as a GVF Certified Examiner.

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