CAR

Reconnecting after the fire

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By Elizabeth Millership

Firefighters struggled to extinguish the blaze as flames licked the sides of the white brick building, its heat adding to the already hot day. It was a Sunday in early June and the server room of the main Internet service provider in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR), stood blackened, charred, and eerily quiet.

Since then, the humanitarian community in Bangui has been plunged into a city-wide connectivity blackout, operating without the critical communications services that enable their lifesaving work.

One of those communities worst affected was the International NGO Coordination Committee (CCO), a forum composed of 52 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs). “After the fire, we were left with no access to the Internet and critical communications were left unsent,” says Christian Mascaro, Coordinator of the CCO.

Faced with a connectivity crisis, the humanitarian community knew who to call: The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC).

Soon, the CCO operations centre was humming with high-speed connectivity, open to the entire INGO community to use while meeting the needs of affected communities across the country.

“It gives me great pleasure to say we have access,” Christian says. “INGO staff can come to the operations centre any time and connect to carry out their work. This will change our lives. I have an online meeting in a few minutes – this time, I know it’ll work.”

Backed by years of experience delivering services in CAR, the ETC was well equipped to respond. “The type of equipment used to provide this connection is fast, reliable, and available to all who need it,” says ETC Coordinator Francis Koroma.

While the email inboxes of Bangui’s wider response community remain untouched as national providers push to bring connectivity services back online, for INGOs in the CCO operations centre, it’s back to business.