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Haiti’s Earthquake: One Year After

Posted January 18th, 2011 by Mindel DeLaTorre - Chief of the International Bureau

It’s one year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti and we at the FCC, like many other organizations that have worked to help with the recovery, look back and to the future to see what awaits the country.  International organizations, including the UN, agree that much remains to be done to help Haiti’s reconstruction.  Haiti is still hurting as a result of a natural disaster that, according to new estimates recently announced by the Haitian Prime Minister, killed more than 300,000 people and affected an estimated 3 million -- a third of Haiti’s population. 

Right after the earthquake, Haitians, many of whom struggled to obtain basic services even before the tragedy, became almost totally deprived of the ability to communicate with emergency relief services, relatives, friends and the rest of the world.  Restoring of telecommunications services, however, went relatively quickly and played a major role in rescue efforts after the earthquake.  Mobile phones proved very useful in helping find earthquake victims, and volunteers developed mobile apps to help navigate through the numerous dirt roads and alleyways in Port-au-Prince.  Telecommunications will also play a large role in Haiti’s ability to advance in the reconstruction of the country and as an aid in providing health-related and other basic services to the Haitian people.
The FCC has played a role in the effort to restore Haiti’s telecommunications infrastructure.  A cross-section of FCC staff from many bureaus has taken five missions to Haiti during the past year.  A first FCC team deployed to Haiti days after the earthquake to support a FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Team, followed within days by a larger FCC team that conducted a detailed damage assessment and recommended reconstruction projects in a report to the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Subsequent teams worked hand-in-hand with CONATEL, the Haitian regulator, to conduct spectrum assessments and help restart broadcasts in northern Haiti.

Haiti’s mobile providers also contributed to significant improvements during the past year. They have actually increased network capacity beyond pre-earthquake levels, in part due to more demand and usage from aid workers and displaced families.  They also have opened a new world of financial services through mobile banking, which allows Haiti’s “unbanked” population, estimated in the hundreds of thousands, to save and transfer money via their mobile phones instead of traveling miles and waiting in long lines at the few remaining bank branches.  Last March, Digicel, a Caribbean wireless provider, launched a service in connection with Scotiabank called Tcho Tcho Mobile, winning a $2.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its efforts.  An aid organization, World Vision, tested Digicel’s service with its staff to assess its effectiveness in paying Haitians who participate in cash-for-work programs, and a number of local companies are using it to pay their employees.  In December, a joint venture of Haitian mobile provider Voilà and Unibank launched another mobile banking service called T-Cash.  The joint venture is also working with aid groups such as Mercy Corps and the International Red Cross to promote a mobile application developed in Haiti that sends targeted emergency and public health messages to Haitians via their mobile phones. 

While much remains to be done and visible progress is slow, the FCC, along with hundreds of businesses and aid groups, will continue to help in Haiti’s reconstruction efforts.

Posted in International Bureau
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Emergencies Abroad: What Do You Dial?

Posted December 1st, 2010 by Mindel DeLaTorre - Chief of the International Bureau

If you're traveling in Europe and suddenly you need to make an emergency call - what do you do?  Dial “112.”  Don’t call 911 as you would in the United States; that number doesn’t work in Europe.  Dialing 112 from any country in the European Union (EU) will connect you to emergency services, such as police, fire, and ambulance services.  (See the list of European Union member countries.)  Dialing 112 could be a life-saver and is completely free.  You can dial 112 from any mobile phone, landline, or payphone.  In most EU countries, the operator will speak both the local language and English (you can find country specific details). 

If you’re traveling to countries outside of Europe, check the State Department website before you depart to identify the emergency calling number in the countries you’ll be traveling to.  These numbers are available from the State Department.  (Click on the specific country, then search under “Information for Victims of Crime.”)  You will see that “112” also is the emergency calling number in many other countries.  But it is not the number everywhere.  For example, the emergency number in South Africa is “10111.”  And in some countries, there may be variations.  In India, the local equivalent to our “911” emergency number is “100,” but “112” also works on mobile phones; and from a mobile phone in South Korea, the number is “02-112.”  Be aware too that in some countries such as Brazil and Haiti, you have to call a different number for different services.  For example, in Brazil, the number for police is “190,” while the number for fire and medical is “193.”  When traveling abroad, also keep in mind that the response times and services available on the other end of the call may be different than those in your local community in the United States.     

Here is additional international travel information that you may find helpful:

Posted in International Bureau Mobile
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Out of Sight, But All Around, Cyber Abounds

Posted October 29th, 2010 by Linda HallerSloan

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

So you’re in another country, you stop for a cup of coffee at a café and plug in your laptop to an Internet connection.  Or you’re at the airport, and you get an email that says: “Free upgrade now.”   Or you’re in a hotel room and securing your passport in the safety deposit box and it asks you for a PIN number.  “Ah hah,” you think to yourself, “that’s easy, I’ll use the same passcode I use at home, that way, I’ll remember it!”  Or you live in a country like Haiti and one of the only ways to access currency is through a transaction on your cell phone.  Stop before you act.  BE AWARE.  Cyber may be out of sight, but it is all around.  Cyber abounds.  And so do tactics designed to harm your electronic devices and to take information from you.  In the United States, October has been National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.  At the FCC, we’ve developed safety tips for consumers about Internet usage.  And we’ve identified some precautions you can take when traveling internationally with electronic devices.  Protect yourself.  Take a look at these travel  tips we put together to learn how.

Posted in International Bureau Consumers Wisenet
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Internet Epitomizes Part of Our Society But Not Its Full picture

Posted October 18th, 2010 by Serena Romano

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

On any day coming to the office, opening up my mailboxes at home, or scanning through my mail at the airport queue I come across an old friend who suddenly wants to link up with me, a vague acquaintance who wishes to see me at an exhibition, or an urgent petition that I need to sign.

The prospect of friends suddenly springing up from old times used to thrill me. I was delighted to sign petitions that would guarantee my democratic rights, and basked in the idea of going to an art exhibition. As always with novelties they are delightful only if they are rare enough to continue to be pleasant.

However, today the acceptance level of intrusion has been surpassed, and I only get moderately amused when acquaintances who hardly recognize me at a conference, insist on becoming my “friends” on Facebook.

So, now more than ever we must rethink our personal communications policies towards our parents, friends, and colleagues. Maybe I want to send photos of the latest birthday to parents, but not necessarily start a discussion that would be best fit for Sunday afternoon tea-time. I want to share lots of fun –or even silliness – with friends on Facebook, but that does not replace face-to-face encounters. I may not want all of my colleagues as my friends on Facebook (depending on the above-mentioned level of silliness displayed), but I expect at least an acknowledgment from them on all Emails sent with a professional query.

The Internet is splitting our personalities and recomposing them in accordance with the community networks that we adhere to. Now more than ever we need to keep control of our lives, information, and ideas.

The Internet should be an opportunity for us to make better and faster judgments. It’s so easy to tell that a deal is bad if the photos of the item that you would be buying are taken at a distance. The same principle applies to people, their ideas, and their so-called friendships.

So, let’s remember that the Internet is only a piece of our society and that when the time comes we need to get out of it. A petition will never replace a street demonstration, and a Skype call will never replace a private encounter.

The Internet should be the conduit to improve and diversify our physical, real, and concrete world.

Posted in International Bureau Wisenet
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Desirability of Continuing the Internet Governance Forum

Posted October 15th, 2010 by Ana CristinaNeves

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

Ana Cristina Neves, from the Knowledge Society Agency, Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal summarizes key points from her November 2009 presentation at the Internet Governance Forum.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a unique platform that must continue for the sake of our own and future generations. It fulfills the United Nations’ mandate to convene a forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue. It is unique because of three features. First, it is strong and robust. One of the most powerful outcomes of IGF is the spontaneous creation of flourishing and diversified national and regional IGFs all over the world. Their existence is proof that the IGF process is a great and a powerful idea, because only a powerful idea could deliver such a result. It is possible that these national and regional IGF will become places to ripen ideas. History has shown us that when movements are spontaneous, it is because they are powerful and meaningful for societies and for their citizens. And it’s exactly these movements that can change the paradigm. The second unique feature is that it acts as the global conscience of the Internet and Information Society. This conscience is essential for the development of the economies and for societal improvement all over the globe. Finally, the IGF is sustained by multi-stakeholder cooperation. The IGF set up a remarkable, variable, and wide-ranging dialogue and cooperation geometry between different institutions: public, private and non-profit organizations, and countries. It provides space where the individual, the citizen, the civil society participate on equal footing along with more powerful entities. These 3 features are incompatible with any hierarchical formal structure; no existing structure of this kind has ever produced such deliverables. IGF should be allowed to continue to evolve as creatively as it has been evolving for the past 4 years.  The public can visit the IGF website for more information.   

Posted in International Bureau Wisenet
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How shopping can eliminate information asymmetries

Posted October 13th, 2010 by Irene Wu

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

The last time I shopped for a laptop, I conducted an extensive online search.  I read articles from computer shopping magazines.  I looked at user reviews.  Then, I started comparing prices online.  I visited the manufacturer’s website.  With regret, I learned that in Hong Kong they were selling the same laptop with a fancy Vivienne Tam design which was unavailable in the US!  Finally, I found a big chain store with the best price.  I clicked through to order.  Then, a note popped up that the laptop (blue!) was in stock at the bricks and mortar store two blocks from where I live.  I reserved it online and walked down the street to pick it up.  Before online shopping, it was hard to know whether the prices in the neighborhood shops were better or worse than elsewhere.  Finding the answer cost time, energy, and money.  But, now the consumer has better access to information, there is a better balance between what the customer and the salesperson knows – the information asymmetry is mostly eliminated.  How have ICT’s eliminated information asymmetries in your experience? … In the next post of this series, collective action and the impact of ICT on society... .

Posted in International Bureau Wisenet
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ICT’s better our lives

Posted October 12th, 2010 by Doreen Bogdan-Martin - Chief, Strategic Planning & Membership Dept., ITU

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

To bridge the digital divide, content and connectivity must go hand in hand.  We must ensure that the developing countries get the access, and applications they need to better their lives.  The access and applications must be affordable.   Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) bring great benefits but must be used responsibly.  ICT companies, Policy makers, educators, and parents all have a role to play to ensure that our children are protected and understand potentially harmful situations or materials on the Internet.   ICTs are transformational and have the power to better our lives. Improved health care delivery, and provision of education are two good examples.

Posted in International Bureau Wisenet
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Banking on your phone

Posted October 12th, 2010 by Linda Pintro - Senior Legal Advisor, International Bureau

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

It should come as no surprise that “mobile money” has taken off in the developing world because the need for it there is massive, and the opportunity it presents for network operators and banks is also huge.  The term “mobile money” includes all monetary transactions done through a mobile phone.  When I talk about mobile money in the developing countries, I am not talking about the advanced services in which you can wave your telephone at the vending machine for contactless payment of your candy bar.  For the most part I’m talking basic services like getting loans and paying bills.  This basic mobile banking is forecast to generate $5 billion in fees by 2012.  In Africa, for example, approximately 80% of the people have no or very little access to banking services, but they are not alone in being “unbanked” or “under-banked.” There are a number of reasons why people are unbanked.  They may not have one or more basic things that a bank may require to open a bank account:  an ID card, permanent address, a job.  In some cases, they may have all that is required but simply not live near a bank branch.  Because most financial transactions in the developing world take place at the corner “mom and pop stores,” mobile money services allow these small shops to act like branches.  Although they may not offer you a free toaster for signing up for banking services, these convenience stores are getting the job done.  Let me tell you how in my next few blog posts.

Posted in International Bureau Wisenet
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Veena Rawat: Empowering Women

Posted October 8th, 2010 by Veena Rawat - President, Communications Research Centre

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

Previously we posted a blog noting that Dr. Rawat was the only woman running for a senior post in the ITU. We also began an introduction of Dr. Rawat, and in this blog we continue.

Throughout Dr. Veena Rawat’s career and in her personal life, she has enthusiastically supported women. In 2004 the Canadian Women in Communications organization presented her with the Canadian Woman of the Year in Communications Award. A spokeswoman stated “[Dr. Rawat] has been a tireless role model and supporter of advancement of women and under her leadership, the participation of women in engineering roles at Industry Canada has blossomed.” From 2003 to 2006, Dr. Rawat was a representative for Women in Science & Technology. Since 2007, she has been a member of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, Women in Technology group. In 2005 Dr. Rawat was included in Canada’s Most Powerful Women, Top 100 by Canada’s Executive Women’s Network, and was awarded Canadian Woman of the Year in Communications by the Canadian Women in Communications in 2004. Dr. Rawat has been a volunteer mentor with The Women’s Executive Network since 2007 and a member of the Heart Truth Leadership Council starting in 2008. The council is part of the Heart Truth campaign to raise awareness of women’s heart disease. During the 1990s, she worked with groups concerned with violence against women, and volunteered with sports teams for high school girls.

Posted in International Bureau Wisenet
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Who is Veena Rawat?

Posted October 7th, 2010 by Veena Rawat - President, Communications Research Centre

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

Dr. Rawat is a notable trailblazer and spectrum ambassador. In 1968 she emigrated from India to Canada, where she became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Queen’s University in 1973. She is fluent in English, French, Hindi and Spanish.   Dr. Rawat began her career 35 years ago with the Canadian federal government’s communications ministry, starting as an engineer before advancing into executive-level positions. Her experience spans the technology continuum — from bench-level engineering to taking a leadership position in a national R&D organization.
In 2004, Dr. Rawat became the President of the Communications Research Centre (CRC), the only federal government laboratory carrying out R&D in communications technologies. She currently manages a staff of 400 and an annual budget of over $50 million. Her work has garnered much recognition both nationally and internationally:

  • Canada’s Leading Woman High Tech Entrepreneur
  • Canada’s Most Powerful Women, Top 100, 2005
  • Leadership in Government Award, 2005
  • Canadian Woman of the Year in Communications, 2004
  • Radio Advisory Board of Canada Award of Excellence, 2004
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Gold Medal, 2003
  • Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal, 2003

Posted in International Bureau Wisenet
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