By Ifeoma Asika
Ericsson Response, the company’s humanitarian relief programme that focuses on providing connectivity to humanitarian workers and populations in affected areas, is celebrating 20 years of service.
The mission of Ericsson Response is simple namely the faster communications services can be up and running in a crisis-hit area, the faster and more efficiently humanitarian organizations and workers can coordinate and deliver critically important aid to affected areas and save lives.
In partnership with global organizations such as the UN World Food Programme and Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, UNICEF, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and Save the Children, Ericsson Response has provided connectivity support and technical expertise during more than 60 humanitarian missions in 40 countries around the world. These include natural disasters like Hurricane Maria on the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico and Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, medical emergencies like the Ebola crisis in west Africa, and protracted crises in places like South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson, Heather Johnson says the group of volunteers who were responsible for establishing Ericsson Response in 2000 were way ahead of their time. “The smartphone was still seven years away and yet these colleagues understood the power of communication technology and the role that it could play in a time of disaster, and partnered with the UN to make it happen,” Johnson says.
“What they realized is that they could provide invaluable assistance to humanitarian workers – and that the ability to connect both within and outside of a disaster zone would allow them to do their jobs more effectively, and ultimately save lives.”
Today, Ericsson Response plays a leading role in the UN Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a global network of organizations led by the World Food Programme that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies.
The programme currently has around 150 volunteers globally, made up of Ericsson field engineers, product specialists, communications experts, developers and more, spanning 32 countries and more than 50 cities. Around 20 to 30 new volunteers are introduced into the program every year, receive special training on responding to humanitarian crises, as will as specific internal trainings on unique network deployment solutions, local development activities where new volunteers can join, and most importantly, partner trainings and exercises with the ETC to ensure that all volunteers from all organizations are synchronized when in the field.