Humanitarian and Disaster Response

Ericsson VP of Sustainability, Elaine Weidman-Grunewald discusses the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter, launched earlier in 2015, with Developing Telecoms.

The GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter outlines shared principles of commitment and a series of aspirational collaborative actions to demonstrate the support of the mobile industry to communities and other stakeholders in disaster situations. Ericsson is one of a number of heavyweight industry players committed to supporting the Charter. Developing Telecoms spoke to Ericsson’s VP of Sustainability, Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, to discuss the vendor’s extensive background in the field of disaster relief.

Mobile networks and the connectivity they provide are a lifeline for those affected by natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. The number of these crises and their impact is growing. Between 2004 and 2014, an estimated 1.8 billion people were affected by natural and complex disasters.

Mobile networks facilitate both access to information and coordinate assistance with Government, NGOs and the international humanitarian community before, during and after disasters. In recognition of their crucial role, mobile network operator (MNO) members of the GSMA have defined and committed to a set of shared principles in the spirit of supporting and enhancing humanitarian connectivity - the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter.

How has Ericsson been involved in the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter and how do you anticipate the company’s role in the Charter developing in the future?

Ericsson has been involved in humanitarian and disaster response for 15 years. We have provided vital connectivity support to more than 40 disasters in over 30 countries. We have longstanding relationships with UN organizations leading disaster response like OCHA and World Food Programme, so we were a natural partner to consult with when it came to the connectivity charter. We are not an operator as such, therefore we are not a signatory, but we were one of the primary contributors to the development of the charter. We have also been involved in the business consultations that OCHA has been running for humanitarian response more broadly. For example, we hosted a Business Consultation for OCHA in Sweden in April 2015. The consultation was attended by 42 representatives from the private sector, the international humanitarian community (including UN, NGOs and academia) and the governments of Finland, Norway and Sweden. The consultation was part of a series of thematic, regional and national business consultations led by OCHA’s Private Sector Section leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, in May 2016. This consultation was a bit broader than the connectivity charter, but still important and indicative of the future direction of humanitarian response.

What contribution do you believe an industry based charter will make to improving crisis management?

Industry-wide collaboration will provide better consistency and hopefully result in more immediate responses to people in need. Establishing guidelines and routines will enable more efficient and effective response that will help to better leverage the capabilities of mobile in disaster. It is also an opportunity for the owners of critical infrastructure to play a significant part in ensuring the re-establishment of vital connectivity during and post-disaster.

What are the most important ICT contributors to lessening the impact of crises?

The most important contributors would be proven technology and competent, trained people. People need to be trained both in the technology to be deployed, but also in handling disasters as such. With our program Ericsson Response, we put a lot of focus on competence development and capacity building, together with our partners. No one is deployed into an emergency situation without the proper training, routines etc.

A longer version of this interview is available in Developing Telecoms Connected Citizens Special Report. This 40+ page downloadable report is available free of charge. The report discusses the background to the launch of the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter and looks at the ways in which the approach to crisis connectivity is changing, with interviews and articles from major players including Ericsson, Ooredoo, Inmarsat, UNICEF and others.

Click here for the free download of Developing Telecoms Connected Citizens Special Report.


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