Satellite communications deployed for improved global response to disasters

ITU forges partnership with ICO Global Communications and Commonwealth Business Council

Geneva, 20 June 2007 - ITU reached agreement today with ICO Global Communications and the Commonwealth Business Council to utilize satellite communications for improved global response in the face of natural disasters.

Natural calamities have spread mayhem around the world, severely impacting the lives of people and the environment. The recent spate of tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides and forest fires have left behind a legacy of lost and broken lives, economic upheaval and sheer devastation, imposing long-lasting impediments to sustainable development and global efforts for poverty reduction. The poor, especially those living in remote and isolated areas, are the most vulnerable and disaster-prone.

In 2006 alone, 21'800 people succumbed to natural disasters, with 95 per cent of those killed residing in least developed countries. USD 65 billion of economic loss was recorded worldwide.

Satellite airtime for emergencies

ICO Global Communications will provide airtime on their F2 satellite for disaster prevention and effective response in the aftermath of natural disasters through both voice communications and other telecommunication applications, including telemedicine. An hour's airtime will be provided every day for use through ITU to help countries maintain preparedness, provide early-warning information and elicit quick response. In the event of a disaster, this time will be adjusted according to demand to facilitate rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

"The partnership that we have established with ICO Global Communications and the Commonwealth Business Council is an important milestone towards ITU's effort to save human life," said Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-general of ITU. "Satellite communication provides a platform to deliver a wide range of services and applications even to remote areas. In the digital age, we are able to provide an ICT lifeline to disaster victims and humanitarian personnel entrusted with coordinating rescue and relief operations, especially when terrestrial communications infrastructure is disrupted, overloaded or destroyed."

While ITU will manage and coordinate emergency telecommunications, the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) will provide content and manage the entrepreneurial skill development programme.

"ICO strongly supports the goals of ITU and CBC, and we are pleased to be able to contribute ICO's satellite services to these efforts," added J. Timothy Bryan, CEO of ICO, a next-generation satellite operator. "ICO's development and global implementation of S-band technology will serve our interests well as we continue to work with key suppliers to create advanced user terminals to access F2 for humanitarian and emergency uses."

Dr Mohan Kaul, Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council, said, "CBC is pleased to work with ITU and ICO to contribute towards development and disaster preparedness. What is required for the future is increased economic empowerment of wider segments of society, to lift people out of poverty and give them new opportunity. This can be achieved by bringing technology and innovation to the service of many." Dr Kaul added, "We need to pursue the 'democratization of knowledge' by making technology more widely and freely accessible. By means of tele-education and entrepreneurial development programmes, CBC will equip and prepare global citizens for economic empowerment and disaster management."

For further information, contact:

Sanjay Acharya
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information
Tel: +41 22 730 6135

Cosmas Zavazava
Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and Emergency Telecommunications
Tel: +41 22 730 5447